Tampa Bay rookie Elijah Dukes was
held out of the lineup Wednesday night against Seattle following a
published report that his estranged wife sought a restraining order
after being threatened by the 22-year-old outfielder.
The St. Petersburg Times reported NiShea Gilbert filed for court
protection after receiving a threatening message on her cell phone
on May 2, as well as a text message that included a picture of a
Gilbert played a voice mail allegedly from Dukes for the newspaper. "You dead, dawg. I ain't even [expletive]. Your kids, too."
The Devil Rays said they were aware Dukes' marriage was ending,
but that the allegations detailed in the story caught the team by
Manager Joe Maddon said he made the decision to sit Dukes
Wednesday night, although the young center fielder was in uniform
and available to play if needed.
"It was my decision to not play him," Maddon said after he and
Devil Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman met with Dukes
before the game.
"In visiting with him, I can see he's pretty much upset. I
anticipated that, so I thought the wise thing to do would be to not
start him tonight and more than likely play him tomorrow."
Dukes and his wife have been married since February 2006 and have
two children, whose safety also was threatened in the phone
message Gilbert played for the newspaper.
Gilbert also gave an account of an April 30 incident at the
middle school where she teaches, saying Dukes showed up at her
classroom while her students were at lunch and threatened her.
Gilbert said she and a co-worker went to the school office for
"I told them to get the deputy because he was acting out of his
mind," she told the newspaper. "I told them, 'Just have him
escorted off. I don't want him to go to jail. Just make him
Gilbert has filed requests for protection twice in the last month, according to the newspaper. A hearing on her latest request is scheduled for May 30.
"I just don't think I should live in fear," Gilbert told the newspaper. "When [the Rays] go out of town, I come home. When they're at home, I go stay with my mother. I shouldn't have to live like that because he's a baseball player."
When approached by the newspaper before Tuesday night's game, Dukes declined to comment on Gilbert's allegations.
"I'm just going to play ball, that's it," Dukes told the newspaper. "I've got to go. I've got a video game to finish."
Team president Matt Silverman said the "allegations raised in
the article were news to us."
Dukes has a history of problems on and off the field, including
an arrest in January on a marijuana possession charge. A tumultuous
season at Triple-A Durham in 2006 ended with him being suspended
for the final 30 games.
The product of Tampa Hillsborough, the same high school that
sent Dwight Gooden, Gary Sheffied, Vance Lovelace and Carl Everett
to the majors, reported to spring training eager to leave his
He not only won a job, but made his big league debut on Opening
Day at Yankee Stadium because regular center fielder Rocco Baldelli
had a hamstring injury and was limited to a designated hitter role.
"He's made progress," Silverman said. "These allegations are
troubling, but they are ones that we hope that he and his wife and
family can work through and have him back on track as soon as
Dukes' ability on the field has never been an issue, however his
temper and several off-the-field transgressions have raised
questions about whether he'll ever reach his full potential.
Through Tuesday, he was batting .231 with eight home runs, tied
with Cincinnati's Josh Hamilton for the most among major league
"We've been working with him closely and we have seen some
improvement. We believe he has the potential to be a great
ballplayer and be an outstanding citizen. And, we're committed to
helping him reach his potential," Silverman said.
Maddon said he had not asked Dukes for his side of the story.
"I did not feel it was necessary for him to tell me anything
more than what I read today. Maybe at some point. But for today,
no," Maddon said.
"I'm just concerned in general, how he's going to handle
things. We'll wait and see how it all shakes out. ... For today, I
felt it was in his best interest and our best interest to not start
Silverman said the Devil Rays had been in contact with Dukes'
agent, as well as major league baseball.
Meanwhile, the club will continue to offer help through its
confidential employee assistance program.
"We've had a number of conversations with him," Silverman
said. "The end of a marriage can often be a messy situation. Our
focus is not on the different sides of the story but more ensuring
Elijah has all the resources he needs to help him at this time."
Teammate Carl Crawford said he and other players were not
familiar with any problem Dukes had at home.
"If he wants to talk about it, we'll talk. If not, it's one of
those things you kind of let play out and see what happens,"
"For this to come out, it's kind of like a setback to him that
he'll have to deal with. I don't think it's going to affect the
clubhouse. That's personal stuff. I don't ask any player about
their issues at home."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.