Showing Restraint In Every Phase, Dukes Going Right

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 6, 2008

JUPITER, Fla., March 5 -- In the first inning of the Washington Nationals' 6-5 Grapefruit League victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday afternoon, Nationals outfielder Elijah Dukes got a fastball from Cardinals right-hander Mike Parisi on the inside part of the plate. Staying back on the ball, however, Dukes drilled it to right field -- the opposite way. It bounced off the wall for a two-run triple.

The only notable developments from Dukes this spring have come from his play on the field, which is exactly the way the Nationals want it. The ability to hit a ball as hard and as far the opposite way is something almost nobody else in the Washington organization can do.

"He's impressive," Manager Manny Acta said. "He's very strong, and he has that ability that it's tough to teach to the younger guys, to keep the hands inside the ball regardless of where the ball is" on the plate.

Dukes said that when he was in Class AA ball, he did a good job of taking balls the other way. But he got away from it once he reached the majors last year with Tampa Bay because he tried to hit for too much power.

"You have a tendency to want to pull everything," said Dukes, who is hitting .389 on the spring. "That's what I started doing."

Now, after working with Nationals hitting coach Lenny Harris and special assistant Barry Larkin, he is trying to rediscover right field.

"That's what I've been trying to do -- just stay back," Dukes said.

B. Boone 'Pretty Pleased'

Veteran second baseman Bret Boone got five plate appearances Wednesday, hitting his third double of the spring, drawing a walk and hitting another ball hard to the outfield. Attempting a comeback after a two-year hiatus from the game, Boone is pleased with his progress.

"I'm 10 at-bats in, and not having an at-bat in over two years, I'm pretty pleased," Boone said. "I still got the bat speed." . . .

The Nationals reassigned 16 players to minor league camp -- lefties Mike Bacsik, Ross Detwiler, Mike Hinckley, Charlie Manning and Josh Smoker; right-handers Tristan Crawford, Ismael Ramirez and Jim Ed Warden; infielders William Bergolla, Yurendell De Caster and Antonio Perez; outfielders Roger Bernadina, Frank Diaz, Tommy Murphy and Jorge Padilla; and catcher Devin Ivany.

But they also brought shortstop Ian Desmond and right-hander Adam Carr up to major league camp. Carr, who General Manager Jim Bowden said is throwing 98 mph, will get work in major league games over the next couple weeks, and Desmond will help with depth at shortstop.". . .

Reliever Jes┬┐s Colome returned from the Dominican Republic, where he was working out visa issues, and threw a bullpen session at the Nationals' complex in Viera.

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