Manager Jim Riggleman is excited about the prospects in the Nats outfield this upcoming season, especially the chances of Elijah Dukes having a season to remember.
I asked Jim about Dukes recently and he told me, "I think Elijah can have a big year. He did well for himself in right field (last season). He had a lot of assists and is getting to be a finished product at his position."
Do you think Elijah can have a big year at the plate?
"Offensively, we are just scratching the surface with Elijah. He can definitely hit more home runs than he hit last season. That will bring his RBI total up, whether he is knocking them in or crossing the plate himself. Despite not being up with the club the entire season, he did have 58 RBI in 364 at bats, which was pretty productive."
I thought he handled his demotion to Syracuse with maturity and just went to work. Would you agree?
"Yes, I would. Elijah did a good job with Tim Foli in Syracuse. He brought back that solid work ethic which helped him the rest of the year. It will be great for all the players to have Tim with us in D.C. all season long. He is an excellent addition and a powerful influence on the roster."
As I reported late last year, Dukes went to management and put in a recommendation for Jim Riggleman to get the manager's job on a permanent basis, which certainly didn't hurt Riggleman's candidacy as the Nats picked their skipper for this season and beyond.
Obviously, Dukes has all the physical tools to be a great baseballl player and I would argue his demotion and eventual recall to D.C. last year showed a maturing and responsible Dukes who is acting and playing like a professional. When he got to Syracuse, Dukes worked to improve his game and concentrated on getting back to the Nats.
That's good news for the Nats today and in the future.