Nationals Notebook

Dukes Is Granted Day Off to Handle Legal Troubles

Elijah Dukes, who took the final day of camp off to be in court in Tampa, is expected to play against the Orioles tomorrow in Washington.
Elijah Dukes, who took the final day of camp off to be in court in Tampa, is expected to play against the Orioles tomorrow in Washington. (By Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)
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By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 28, 2008

VIERA, Fla., March 27 -- Washington Nationals outfielder Elijah Dukes was absent from the final day of the team's spring training camp Thursday so he could be in court to answer to a misdemeanor charge that he violated a domestic violence injunction last year.

The case, which was heard in Dukes's home town of Tampa, stems from Dukes's relationship with his estranged wife, Nishea Gilbert, with whom he has gone through a messy public breakup. The two have, over the course of the last year, tried to get back together. Gilbert told the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office last July that Dukes came to her home and asked to visit their children, a violation of an earlier protective order against him.

Dukes's attorney, Grady Irvin, did not return messages seeking comment Thursday. Dukes's agent, Scott Pucino, did not return a call.

Dukes, 23, was acquired in a December trade with Tampa Bay.

Manager Manny Acta said Dukes was scheduled to fly to Washington on Thursday night, and he will rejoin his teammates for Friday's 6 p.m. workout at Nationals Park. Dukes has been battling a strained right hamstring suffered March 14, and he last played on Monday. Acta said he would play Dukes in Saturday's exhibition against Baltimore.

If at First You Don't Succeed . . .

First baseman Dmitri Young played four innings and went 1 for 2 in Thursday's 2-1 victory over Baltimore, finishing the spring hitting .320 (8 for 25) -- exactly his average from last year. With Acta set to announce his choices at first and second base on Saturday, Young was asked how he would react if Nick Johnson is named the starter, as is expected.

"You'll find out that day," Young said.

Young has struggled on the bases, and said Thursday he felt "not fast" on the base paths.

"I can get to where I need to get to [and] not try to over-exert myself," Young said. "But if I can take an extra base, I'll take it. It's all about being a smart base runner, not necessarily being the fastest guy out there. There's other people for that." . . .

The Nationals' best starting pitcher of the spring didn't make the rotation. Left-hander John Lannan pitched six innings of one-run ball Thursday, a day after he was told he would pitch for Class AAA Columbus. He would be the first starter recalled if there's an early-season injury. . . .

Outfielder Wily Mo Pe¿a, on the disabled list with a severely strained left oblique muscle, will not travel to Washington for the opener, remaining here instead. He said he may be able to swing the bat Monday. "I told them I wanted to work," Pe¿a said of skipping the opener.

Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

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