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Nationals spring training report
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BY RICH CAMPBELL
VIERA, Fla.--The prosecution in a case against Washington Nationals left fielder Elijah Dukes yesterday dropped the first-degree misdemeanor charge that he violated a restraining order.
Dukes appeared in Tampa criminal court for a disposition yesterday morning and did not attend the Nationals' final spring training game, a 2-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles. He was scheduled to fly to Washington last night and join the team there.
On Sept. 20, Dukes pleaded not guilty to the charge that he violated a restraining order by contacting the defendant on July 22, according to court records. Those records did not identify the defendant.
Dukes' attorney, Grady C. Irvin, did not return a phone message yesterday, and Assistant State Attorney Lindsay Mueller could not be reached for comment.
The Nationals traded a minor league pitcher to Tampa Bay for the oft-troubled outfielder on Dec. 3. He has a history of domestic violence, drug abuse and other legal problems, and the Nationals have taken extraordinary measures to rehabilitate him and keep him out of trouble.
They hired a full-time employee, James Williams, to serve as a mentor, counselor and disciplinarian for Dukes. The team also requires a public relations official to be present when Dukes speaks to reporters.
"He has done everything we have asked him to do," general manager Jim Bowden said Wednesday. "I have no complaints."
Dukes, 23, is recovering from a pulled right hamstring, but he will play in tomorrow's exhibition against Baltimore, manager Manny Acta said. Dukes is expected to start the season-opener at Nationals Park against Atlanta on Sunday night after batting .250 (10-for-40) this spring with one home run and three RBIs.
YOUNG'S NOT RESTLESS
First baseman Dmitri Young declared himself ready for the season after going 1-for-2 yesterday to improve his spring average to .280.