Results tagged ‘ Elijah Dukes ’

A message from Elijah Dukes

I really want to tell the fans of DC, Jim Bowden and Mike Rizzo thanks a lot for helping me out in many ways. I really grew up a lot because of those two guys. I also want to give a hug to Harolyn Cardozo and Willie Harris for the time that I needed people the most. A special thanks to them.                

Nats release Dukes; may have interest in Dye

The Nationals released right fielder Elijah Dukes and right-hander Logan Kensing on Wednesday morning.

Dukes’ release is the most significant because he was slated to be the starting right fielder, but he was not producing during Spring Training, going 3-for-20 (.150) with five strikeouts. He had problems hitting breaking balls, and he was suffering from knee and foot issues.

General manager Mike Rizzo said Dukes was released based on performance, not any off-the-field incidents. But Rizzo did say the clubhouse would be more united.

“We just didn’t see the progress we hoped to get,” Rizzo said. “This was not a knee-jerk reaction on several Spring Training at-bats. We spoke about this throughout the winter internally. We had a game plan in place to see who was going to claim the job, and we thought we should go in a different direction by releasing Elijah.

“The things that happened in the clubhouse are clubhouse matters. We are not going to go into any details on what happened behind closed doors. We have a more cohesive, united group. I think the chemistry will continue to be great. We think we are going to be a better ballclub moving forward.”

Before giving Dukes his unconditional release, Rizzo tried to trade the right-handed-hitting slugger, but there were no takers. The organization even felt that going to the Minor Leagues wasn’t going to help Dukes.

“We felt that he was a Major League player,” Rizzo said. “We didn’t feel it would help his development by sending him to the Minor Leagues. We thought that it was best for him get a fresh start with a different organization and for us to move on.”

Spring Training looked so promising for Dukes. Manager Jim Riggleman indicated that the job in right field was Dukes’ to lose. Dukes came into camp in great spirits and without his advisor, James Williams, who was dismissed after being on the team’s payroll the previous two years.

The Nationals felt that Dukes, 25, was mature enough to take care of himself. After he returned from Triple-A Syracuse last August, for example, Dukes was media friendly and often talked about what he needed to do to get better on the field.

This spring, Dukes continued to say all the right things about staying in shape, as well as stating that he wasn’t going to assume he was going to play every day.

“At the same time, I’m not laying back. I’m going at it every day in Spring Training,” Dukes said last month.

With Dukes gone, there are three scenarios the Nationals could look into.

The first is a platoon between Justin Maxwell and Willie Harris. Both players can play defense and are above-average hitters who have produced this spring. Maxwell leads the team in walks (seven) and runs scored (eight), while Harris, one of the clubhouse leaders, was 7-for-21 (.333) with a home run and five RBIs entering Wednesday. In fact, Harris played right against the Marlins on Tuesday.

The second is platooning Harris with Mike Morse, who is have a great spring, hitting .333 with four RBIs. Morse hasn’t played the past three games because of the flu.

“I think Willie is a good player, good hitter against right-handed pitching,” Riggleman said. “Willie is a very good left fielder. He is less experienced in right.”

The last time Harris played often was in 2008. He saw himself in the lineup because of injuries to Dukes and Austin Kearns. Harris hit .251 with 13 home runs and 43 RBIs that year.

Maxwell said the team had distractions with Dukes, but wouldn’t say what they were. However, he is looking forward to getting a chance to show what he can do on the field.

“I’m working on some things with hitting coach Rick Eckstein,” Maxwell said. “I’m trying to find my comfort zone. That’s the beauty of Spring Training. You find your swing, be ready to go whenever we start.”

If the two scenarios don’t work out, the Nationals could go out into the free-agent market. They do have interest in outfielder Jermaine Dye. The right-handed-hitting outfielder played for the White Sox last season, and hit .250 with 27 home runs and 81 RBIs.

“We feel that we have the candidates to play right field here in camp, but there is always a possibility of doing a lot of things via free agency, trades or waiver claim,” Rizzo said. “We are not going to focus on one form of acquiring a player. We are going to think outside the box and do what we have to do to improve the ballclub.”

Where’s Roger Bernadina? As of now, he does not appear to be in the mix. But things could change. He was asked to change his swing recently, and Bernadina has agreed to make the necessary adjustments.

As for Kensing, he was sent to Minor League camp last week and was told Tuesday that his services were no longer needed. Last year, he pitched in 26 games for Washington and had a 8.68 ERA.

With those moves, the club trimmed its roster to 44 players.

James Williams dismissed by Nationals

James Williams, the person responsible for keeping an eye on outfielder Elijah Dukes on and off the field, has been dismissed by the Nationals. The move occurred during the last home stand at Nationals Park.

The Nationals feel that Dukes, 25, is mature enough to take care of himself. Since his return from Triple A Syracuse last August, Dukes has been media friendly and often talks about what he needs to do to get better on the field.

He was the first to say that he needs to work on hitting breaking balls a lot better. The plan is to play Winter Ball for the Licey Tigers.

“The plan was to have James Williams close by to make sure that everything goes right,” Dukes said. “For two years, things have been going right. There is no need to continue to have James on my side all the time, when I know I can get it done myself and keep doing the right things.”

In a statement to MLB.com, Williams said he was grateful to work for the Nationals.

“My experience with the Nationals cannot be compared to any venture I ever endured,” he said. “I thank management for allowing me to be part of such a professional organization and have great respect for the players No one truly understands what they go through to be a Major League player.

“Elijah has a great future and I know he now understands the importance of diplomacy. It is the best method of resolving issues. I truly love him and his family as if they were own. He will make it. Many people are praying for him.

“I thank baseball operations, media, TV and radio crews for educating me on the game of baseball.”

Williams was hired by then-manager Jim Bowden before the 2007 season. Current general manager Mike Rizzo and team president Stan Kasten were not available for comment. 

Rizzo talks about offseason, Harper, Dukes

The local media talked to Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo about a few topics on Saturday. Here are some of things Rizzo had to say.

* Shortstop Cristian Guzman will have an MRI on Monday to determine what’s wrong with his ailing right shoulder. Whatever the doctors find, Rizzo expects Guzman to be ready for Spring Training. When he starts playing again, Guzman will most likely be the everyday second baseman. 

* Washington will end the season with the worst record in baseball, but it’s not a given that catcher Bryce Harper will be the team’s first overall pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft  Why?   

“I haven’t seen him yet. He certainly hasn’t separated himself like [pitcher] Stephen Strasburg did last year,” Rizzo said.        

* After the season, naming a full-time manager isn’t the only thing the Nationals have to take care of. 

The first order of business is to fill some holes in the front office. The Nationals are looking for an assistant general manager and a farm director. They need to get permission from other teams to talks to the candidates  for those jobs. There also will be adjustment of job titles in the front office.

* Rizzo believes Dukes has found a home in right field with the Nationals. Rizzo said Dukes is a guy who can drive in runs, but needs make adjustments at the plate. Dukes has only eight home runs entering Saturday’s action against Braves. Rizzo has a theory as to why Dukes has struggled to hit home runs. 

“A number of advance scouts are scouting him well. Opposing pitchers pitch him very tough. He needs to learn to make adjustments,” Rizzo said.  

All season Dukes has been vulnerable to breaking balls.         

Elijah Dukes to play winter ball

Nationals right fielder Elijah Dukes has decided to play for the Licey Tigers of the Dominican Winter League.

Dukes said he wants to improve his game while he is over there this offseason. The biggest thing is to recognize breaking balls, which has given Dukes problems this year.

In other news, right-hander Josh Wilkie will pitch in the Arizona Fall League this offseason. Entering Saturday’s action, Wilkie has a combined 2.42 ERA for Double A Harrisburg and Triple A Syracuse. 

Wilkie, 25, was signed by the Nationals as a non-drafted free agent on June 14, 2006.           

Dukes hurts thumb; Bernadina out for season

Right fielder Elijah Dukes was expected to bat seventh in Sunday’s game against the Brewers, but was a late scratch because he hurt left thumb taking batting practice on Saturday. Instead, Mike Morse received the start in right field.

Dukes, who is in a 10-for-47 slump, was concerned about his swing, so he decided to take early batting practice on Saturday.

“The thumb kind of blistered up. It’s just a little too sore to play, really, so he is a late scratch from the lineup,” interim manager Jim Riggleman said.

The skipper didn’t say when Dukes would return to action.

In other news, outfielder Roger Bernadina is out for the year because of a fractured right ankle. He injured the ankle making a great catch against the Marlins last April. He is currently rehabbing the ankle in Viera, Fla., but is running the bases at only 50 percent.    

Elijah Dukes sent down to Triple A Syracuse

I have been informed that Nationals outfielder Elijah Dukes has been optionned to Triple-A Syracuse to make room for outfielder Nyjer Morgan and pitcher Sean Burnett.

The Nationals have been unhappy with Dukes’ play of late. They feel that he has made too many fundamental mistakes in the outfield and on the bases.

In fact, earlier this season, acting general manager Mike Rizzo warned Dukes that he would be sent down if he continued to be late for work.

My pal, Alden Gonzalez, will have more on this story.              

Dukes sitting out Thursday's game

Nationals manager Manny Acta decided to give outfielder Elijah Dukes the day off on Thursday afternoon against the Yankees because Dukes is 0-for-7 in his last two games.

Dukes is usually a patient hitter, but he has been swinging at pitches on the outside part of the plate for outs.

“He has been scuffling the last couple of games,” Acta said. “It would be a good day to take the day off. He is a patient guy and pretty knowledgeable of the strikes zone. Right now, he is going after pitches that he is not used to. Obviously, this is the big leagues When he chases, the pitchers are not going to make it easy for him to hit.”

In Wednesday’s game, it looked like Dukes hurt his leg in the sixth inning. He had a tough time chasing a double hit by Johnny Damon, but Acta said Dukes is fine and had a tough time picking up the ball off the carom near the right-field foul line.

Dukes has hamstring strain

Nationals center fielder Elijah Dukes left Friday’s game against the Phillies because of a left hamstring strain. He is listed as day-to-day.

In the top of the seventh inning, after Jayson Werth flew out to left fielder Adam Dunn for the second out of the inning, Dukes took himself out of the game. Dukes walked into the dugout on his own power.
       

Rizzo: No regrets fining, benching Dukes

Nationals acting general manager Mike Rizzo said on Tuesday that he doesn’t regret benching and fining center fielder Elijah Dukes on Saturday.     

Dukes was scratched from that day’s starting lineup against the Marlins and fined $500 for being five minutes late for work.

Dukes was late because he was at a Little League function that was not sponsored by the Nationals. The problem the Nationals had was that Dukes never called anyone from Rizzo to manager Manny Acta to say he was going to the event would be late for workouts.   

According to the Washington Post, the Great Falls Little League is in the process of raising the money, plus $1 in “administrative expenses” to pay Dukes’ fine. 

“I haven’t read who is favoring whom, but I did what I thought I had to do for the best 25-men in the clubhouse. I stand by it,” Rizzo said.

Rizzo declined to talk about the Great Falls Little League paying Dukes’ fine.   

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