Rays still undecided about Dukes

Rays still undecided about Dukes

CHICAGO -- The Devil Rays principal owner called Elijah Dukes' alleged actions against his own wife "deplorable" and said he wanted to release Dukes on the spot when the news first broke.

Stuart Sternberg, visiting the Rays at U.S. Cellular Field on Sunday, said the team still could cut Dukes if some of the player's behavior does not change.

"My immediate reaction [would have been] unprintable," Sternberg said. "Dukes' punishment wouldn't be called a suspension. It would be called, you know, 'You're fired.' "

Dukes, this past week, reportedly was served with a restraining order by his wife because, she said, he threatened to kill her and their children. The couple have been going through a divorce.

Sternberg said the collective bargaining agreement with the Players Association would not prevent Tampa from dismissing Dukes, but the team is choosing a different, more compassionate path, for the moment.

"Everything is still on the table. We're trying to do what's in the best interest of everybody," Sternberg said. "That includes Elijah, his family, the organization and its fans. We feel now we're taking the best course and the most thoughtful course that we can take."

Manager Joe Maddon benched Dukes for games on Wednesday and Thursday; and he returned Friday and hit a three-run home run in Tampa Bay's 5-4 loss. After Saturday's rainout, Dukes led off and played center, again, in the series finale Sunday.

Maddon, who said he lost sleep over what to do with Dukes, stood by his own response.

"For the moment, it seems like what we did was the right thing to do," Maddon said.

Dukes continues to have no comment.

Sternberg said he plans to meet with Dukes, hopefully on Sunday, to communicate ownership's expectations. Mostly, Sternberg will continue delegating to Maddon and others in management.

Still, Sternberg is the boss' boss, and the allegations against Dukes hurt the Rays, who have tried to reach out to the community since Sternberg's group took over the team.

"This is way different than other things that people do that might not be in their own best interests," Sternberg said. "It's bad to all fields. There's no positive spin to be put on it. Nothing good can be said or written about it."

David Brown is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.