Support Will Be There for Dukes During Rehab Process

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 7, 2008

CINCINNATI, July 6 -- When the Washington Nationals acquired Elijah Dukes this offseason, they gave him not just a roster spot, but a support system. The Nationals tried to mitigate the risk -- their 23-year-old newcomer has prodigious talent, but also a history of legal issues -- by surrounding him with a personal mentor, by limiting his media contact and by placing him under the guidance of veteran first baseman Dmitri Young.

Never before had the Nationals so monitored, or so protected, a player.

And that's why, now, they won't allow Dukes's injury to let that system unravel.

As Dukes recovers from the knee injury he suffered Saturday night against Cincinnati, he will remain with the team. During the season's first months, Dukes encouraged team management not just with his productivity (a .263 average, six home runs), but also his reliability. If on-field success helped facilitate off-field success, though, Dukes's time away from the lineup now becomes even more important to oversee.

"We'll have him come back with the team. We'll have him rehab with us. It's really -- we've done really well with the off-the-field [guidance]," General Manager Jim Bowden said. "We've given him an environment he's had a chance to succeed in, but what's important is he's taken advantage of it."

On Sunday, Dukes hobbled into the Washington clubhouse on crutches, his right knee wrapped in a thick bandage. He was injured the previous night while drifting back to make a catch along the left field wall. He felt his knee pop. Hours later, an MRI exam revealed a meniscus tear and a partial tear of the patella tendon. Surgery scheduled for tomorrow will repair the first of those injuries. The tendon -- the more serious of the two -- will be rehabbed without surgery, Cincinnati Reds team physician Tim Kremchek said.

Kremchek said that Dukes will miss from four to eight weeks. Physician Koko Eaton will examine Dukes tomorrow in Tampa.

"I would be very optimistic for him to be able to come back by the beginning of September, late August," Kremchek said.

Before the injury, Dukes had become Washington's most productive hitter, holding the lineup's No. 3 spot and supplying much of its scant power.

"I mean, I'm disappointed," Dukes said. "Everybody was coming. You had Austin [Kearns] coming back, [Ryan] Zimmerman was coming back, and now I'm out. That's the disappointing part. I really wanted to be able to be on the field when we had everybody back and healthy again, and now I've kind of done slowed up that process. Hopefully I can come back real quick and fast. Who knows? Maybe I'll be all right tomorrow."

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