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D-Rays sticking with Dukes

Eddie Altamonte

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Devil Rays sticking with Dukes
02/17/2007 6:42 PM ET
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com

ST. PETERSBURG -- A lot has been written and said about Rays prospect Elijah Dukes, the five-tool 22-year-old outfielder who has dealt off and on with anger issues and other problems during his tenure with the Devil Rays organization. But the club plans to exercise patience with him.
Dukes' most recent problem occurred in January, when he was arrested for marijuana possession.

"It's something that's not going to change overnight," Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. "It's going to be a constant process, and we're going to give him every opportunity to come in Spring Training and earn a job. It's not just going to be how he performs on the field. It's going to be how he's working with others ... how everybody is perceiving him to be a good teammate."

Last spring, Dukes hit .400 and won the Al Lopez Award as the top rookie in camp. But with an outfield already in place consisting of Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli and Delmon Young, Dukes likely would have to be a reserve. Teams often are reluctant to use highly touted prospects for reserve roles at the Major League level in deference to playing every day in the Minors. However, the Rays say they won't rule out his making the team as a reserve.

"There's a lot to be learned on days he's not playing at the Major League level," Friedman said. "He's proven he can handle the Triple-A level physically. So on nights [when] physically he's not playing, I think there will be an emphasis of [manager Joe] Maddon's and everyone else to make sure that mentally he is playing.

"I'm very hopeful and optimistic that we'll look back in October, and he's enjoyed a fine season at the Major League level in every respect."
 

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