Rays option troubled Dukes

Rays option troubled Dukes

ST. PETERSBURG -- Elijah Dukes' personal problems came to a head Friday when the Rays optioned the troubled outfielder to the Minor Leagues and placed him on the temporary inactive list.

The Rays also selected veteran outfielder Dustan Mohr from Triple-A Durham and transferred outfielder Rocco Baldelli from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day DL.

"What this allows us to do and Elijah to do is take some time away from the field and focus on his personal life," said Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. "Reevaluate everything and allow him the opportunity away from the spotlight and everything else."

Friedman talked face-to-face with Dukes while the team was in Phoenix, and spoke with him on the telephone Friday.

"We're doing what we believe is in the best interest of the organization and for Elijah," Friedman said. "We do need to let it play out. We'll let it shake out over the next couple of weeks to a month and see where we stand. There will be a lot of people whose primary goal will be to get Elijah's life back in order."

Friedman said the Rays were encouraged by the way Dukes handled the news.

"The only way this will work is for Elijah to be fully on board," Friedman said. "We're very confident that he is. Time will tell. He appreciates where he is today. He wants to get his life back on track for him and his family."

Dukes, 22, was batting .190 with 10 home runs and 21 RBIs in 52 games with the Rays. He was tied for the Major League lead in home runs among rookies and ranked second with 33 walks. The Rays selected him in the third round of the 2002 First-Year Player Draft out of Tampa's Hillsborough High School.

Dukes' highly-publicized personal problems have served as a distraction to the team.

"It's difficult when you have to read different things on a consistent basis. I'm not going to deny that," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I don't know to what level of distraction it is. Is it 10 percent? I have no idea. I just know that it does affect your concentration."

Added Friedman: "It's tough to finger point how much of a distraction it's been. One thing that's easy to point to is there have been a lot of positive situations that have occurred on the field. It will be nice to shift the focus back on the field."

Friedman was not specific about Dukes' future.

Dukes' situation has "been ongoing now for three weeks to a month; there are a lot of complexities in a situation like this," Friedman said. "Right now, today, everyone is very much on the same page and feels this is the right course of action."

Baldelli's MRI exam of his strained left hamstring Thursday did not reveal any tears. Moving him to the 60-day DL is not as dramatic as it appears at first glance, since the move is retroactive to May 16.

Mohr, 31, was hitting .229 for the Bulls with 15 doubles, nine home runs and 24 RBIs in 58 games.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.