- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 13, 2008

MIAMI | Criticized by some teammates and lambasted by the New York press, Elijah Dukes on Friday apologized for his emotional display during Wednesday’s game at Shea Stadium.

The Washington Nationals outfielder, who made an inappropriate gesture toward Mets fans and later blew them kisses as he walked off the field, met with manager Manny Acta and general manager Jim Bowden after the team arrived in Miami for this weekend’s series against the Marlins. He apologized to both and to his teammates and on Friday made a public statement to reporters.

“I just wanted to apologize to my teammates and the Nationals organization and the fans for my actions in the game Wednesday,” Dukes said in unprepared remarks. “It was wrong. I basically let my emotions just get the best of me. It was just tough for me to take hearing what I had to endure. I just shouldn’t have done it. It was wrong, and I wanted to apologize about it.

“I talked to Jim Bowden and Manny Acta, and I let them know that I apologize for it, and I’ll try to never let it happen again. For my teammates, especially, I just want to apologize again for my actions.”

Dukes didn’t take questions from reporters.

His actions came at several different points during the Nationals’ 13-10 loss. After homering in his first at-bat, the 24-year-old was nearly hit by a pitch from Mike Pelfrey and began jawing at the New York right-hander, drawing Acta from the dugout to try to restrain him. Dukes later obscenely gestured toward fans and capped off the evening by blowing kisses to the crowd.

Dukes’ actions drew the ire of some teammates and became hot fodder for New York’s daily tabloids, which prompted Acta and Bowden to meet with him.

“We handled it internally,” Bowden said.

Acta said Dukes, in apologizing, acknowledged his wrongdoing and believes he’s making a concerted effort to control his emotions.

“We do need to send a message to the other kids coming up over here that that’s not going to be acceptable,” Acta said. “We all know that he’s working on it. This is a good step that he acknowledged it was wrong.”

Lo Duca: ‘I can play’

Paul Lo Duca, whose brief tenure with the Nationals proved disastrous, said he intends to become an everyday catcher again next season and prove he still can play in the majors.

The 36-year-old, whom Washington released July 31 after he hit .230 in 46 injury-plagued games, resurfaced with the Marlins and has hit .267 in 15 games.

A free agent at the end of the year, Lo Duca said he harbors no ill will toward the Nationals and understands why the team released him. But he has no desire to retire.

“I really feel that I can still start, and that’s going to be my approach,” Lo Duca said. “I understand some teams probably won’t give me that, but my job is to go out and prove them wrong in spring training. … I still feel like I can play for a couple more years, and play at a high level. I will prove that next year, I promise you that.”

Lo Duca had a pinch-hit single in the eighth inning Friday night but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double.

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