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Young gives health priority

- The Washington Times - Monday, July 28, 2008

LOS ANGELES | Dmitri Young's attempt to return to the baseball field has become secondary to his attempt to get his diabetes under control.

The Washington Nationals first baseman, who went on the disabled list a week ago after seeing his blood sugar level spike, continues to battle the disease. He was scheduled to fly to Florida to begin working on losing weight and getting into shape, but according to general manager Jim Bowden, he's still not feeling well enough to travel.

Bowden, other front office officials and medical personnel plan to meet with Young on Monday in Washington.

“Obviously we're concerned,” Bowden said Sunday before the Nationals' series finale against the Los Angeles Dodgers. “We're praying for him, and we're going to do everything we can to get him healthy.”

Young, who was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in November 2006, had managed to keep his blood sugar level relatively stable during his first season with Washington. It has been more of a challenge this year, compounded by his struggles to stay in good physical shape, and the situation escalated last weekend in Atlanta when his blood sugar spiked and he experienced lightheadedness.

The Nationals placed Young on the 15-day DL and said he wouldn't return to action until he got his diabetes under control and then got himself into top physical shape. He remains far from accomplishing those tasks.

“Right now we're just trying to deal with the diabetes issue,” Bowden said. “It's a two-pronged mission. You can't do the second prong until you do the first prong.”

Dukes making strides

Elijah Dukes' return from right knee surgery may not be that far off.

Dukes, who tore the meniscus and suffered a partial tear of his patellar tendon while tracking down a fly ball July 5 in Cincinnati, began playing in rehab games this weekend with the Nationals' Gulf Coast League rookie team in Viera, Fla.

He has gone 0-for-5 in his first two games, but Bowden is more impressed with reports of the outfielder's running and physical shape just three weeks removed from surgery.

“We're pleased with his progress for sure,” the GM said. “He's obviously a very quick healer.”

The Nationals are being careful not to push Dukes too hard too fast. The preliminary diagnosis following surgery was that he could miss six weeks while recovering, but his progress has stunned team officials.

“I went by the initial [diagnosis],” manager Manny Acta said. “I was not expecting him to be playing this early.”

Bueno Bonifacio

Emilio Bonifacio, the 23-year-old second baseman Washington acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday for reliever Jon Rauch, is off to a hot start at Class AAA Columbus.

Bonifacio had seven hits in his first 12 at-bats with the Clippers, scoring six runs in only three games.

“Certainly everything he's done so far is exactly what we thought we were trading for,” Bowden said.

Already tabbed the Nationals' starting second baseman and leadoff hitter going into 2009, Bonifacio likely will make his Washington debut later this summer but not in the immediate future. Bowden reiterated that he doesn't want the prospect in the major leagues until he's ready to play every day.

“There's no rush,” Bowden said.