Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Baseball [Print without images]

Monday, December 3, 2007
Rays trade outfielder Elijah Dukes to Nationals

Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tampa Bay Rays traded another troubled outfielder Monday, sending Elijah Dukes to the Washington Nationals for minor league pitcher Glenn Gibson.

Due in part to others being injured, Dukes began this season as Tampa Bay's starting center fielder. The rookie batted .190 with 10 homers and 21 RBIs in 52 games.

He was optioned to the minors on June 22 and placed on the temporary inactive list after he was accused of violating a protective court order his estranged wife obtained after she said the 23-year-old Dukes threatened her and the couple's children.

"We have a plan in place for him," Nationals general manager Jim Bowden said. "His book hasn't been written yet. Just the first two chapters. The rest of the book has a chance to be special."

Last week, the Rays traded right fielder Delmon Young to Minnesota in a six-player deal that brought pitcher Matt Garza to Tampa Bay. Young, the No. 1 pick in the 2003 amateur draft and runner-up for AL Rookie of the Year this season, famously flipped his bat into the chest of a Triple-A umpire in 2006 and received a 50-game suspension.

Young got a three-game ban in 2005 for bumping an umpire in Double-A. He also argued with Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon during a late-season game after he was removed for not running out a grounder.

"We have been committed to providing Elijah the support needed to get his personal and professional life back on track," Rays senior vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. "He has made progress, and a logical next step is a change of cities and a fresh start for him and his family."

Young's brother, Dmitri, plays first base for the Nationals. He's had issues of his own -- he was released by the Detroit Tigers during the 2006 season after a year that included an assault charge, treatment for alcoholism and a divorce. But when he joined the Nationals he became the type of respected, vocal leader the rebuilding team needed.

"We were rewarded beyond our wildest dreams with Dmitri," Nationals president Stan Kasten said, adding that Dukes will remain in counseling. "I'd be proud to become an organization that gives guys a second chance and thrives because of it."

Dmitri Young was involved in vetting Dukes and encouraged management to make the deal, Kasten said. Young will take an active role in the support system that will attempt to keep Dukes out of trouble.

"Dmitri said something recently," Kasten relayed. "He said, 'I'm here to pay back for people who gave me a second chance.' He had never said that to us before, but it was nice to hear."

Bowden said Dukes can play all three outfield positions, throw runners out and steal bases. He hit eight homers in a 31-day span for Tampa Bay this year.

"I am excited about getting a fresh start with an up-and-coming franchise," Dukes said in a statement. "It's an important move for my career and gives me the chance to prove myself both on and off the field. I appreciate this opportunity and am looking forward to meeting the fans of Washington, D.C., as we move into a brand new ballpark."

Washington manager Manny Acta went to see Dukes in winter ball and came away impressed.

"None of us should turn our backs on a 23-year-old," Acta said. "It's never too late to become a better person. This kid is not 91 years old, he's 23."

Dukes is the second talented outfield prospect the Nationals have acquired in the past four days. Last week, they traded catcher Brian Schneider and outfielder Ryan Church to the Mets for Lastings Milledge, who had several missteps with New York.

Gibson, a 20-year-old left-hander, went 4-3 with a 3.10 ERA in 12 starts for Class-A Vermont this season.

"We like him very much. It was hard to part with him," Bowden said. "You'll always trade a rookie ball 19-year-old when you have a chance to get a bat that's knocking on the door of the majors."

Gibson's father, Paul, pitched for the Detroit Tigers, New York Mets and Yankees in a big league career that lasted from 1988-96.

------=

AP Sports Writer Jimmy Golen contributed to this report.