<
>

Dukes apologizes to team for recent 'distraction'

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Troubled Tampa Bay outfielder Elijah Dukes apologized Tuesday for allegations contained in a published
report revealing his estranged wife sought a restraining order
after being threatened by the 22-year-old rookie.

Elijah Dukes

Dukes

Dukes spoke briefly before Tuesday night's game against the
Detroit Tigers and initially bungled remarks that were not prepared
in advance when he mistakenly apologized "to the organization for
sticking with me in a situation like this."

The Devil Rays issued a clarification in which Dukes said he
misspoke because he was nervous.

"I would like to apologize to my family, teammates, the fans
and the organization for the distraction that this situation has
caused," Dukes said in the prepared clarification. "I would like
to thank them for standing by me and hope that my family and I can
move on and put this behind us."

Dukes was held out of two games last week after the St.
Petersburg Times reported his estranged wife sought court
protection after the athlete left a threatening message on her cell
phone and also received a text message that included a picture of a
gun.

The player's wife also gave the newspaper an account of an April
30 incident at the middle school where she teaches, saying Dukes
threatened her at her classroom while the students were at lunch.

Dukes returned to the lineup last weekend in Chicago and hit a
three-run homer in his first game back. He singled with the bases
loaded in the ninth inning, driving in two runs to beat the Tigers
6-5 on Monday night -- his first home game since the report.

The Devil Rays said Dukes would not take any questions about his
off-the-field problems, however he did say he had been able to
remain focused on baseball.

"The other stuff doesn't weigh on my mind. When I step out on
the field, all I concentrate on is playing baseball," Dukes said.
"I'm always focused when I step between the lines. You have to be
focused to play this game."

There was a smattering of boos when the center fielder was
introduced before Monday night's game, however there was little
crowd reaction to him as the game progressed.

"I don't know if they're saying 'Dukes' or 'Boo,'" he said.
"It blends right in."