Dukes, Rays to meet since 2007 deal

Duke, Rays stage Interleague reunion

WASHINGTON -- Nationals outfielder Elijah Dukes will go to Tropicana Field on Friday to play a three-game series against the Rays, the same team that selected him in the third round of the 2002 First-Year Player Draft.

It will be Dukes' first appearance on that field since June 2007. Dukes finished that season hitting .190 with 10 home runs and 21 RBIs in 52 games. On June 22, the Rays optioned Dukes to the Minor Leagues and placed him on the temporary inactive list. Dukes didn't play another Major League game for the Rays.

In December 2007, the Rays traded Dukes to the Nationals for left-hander Glenn Gibson. Dukes had five turbulent years with the Rays because of on- and off-the-field issues. But talk to him today and Dukes doesn't have any hard feelings toward the Rays. In fact, he went so far as to say that he rooted for Tampa Bay to go to the World Series.

"It's cool. Guys like B.J. Upton, Jeff Niemann -- all of us played together," Dukes said. "Just to see those guys again -- I haven't seen them in two years. It has been a while -- will be good. I will get to see Carl Crawford, [manager] Joe Maddon and all of those guys."

Dukes, a Tampa, Fla., native, said he is prepared for some of media attention that will come his way early in the series.

"I'm cool with it. I've been playing in Florida for a long time," Dukes said. "I'm pretty familiar with playing in front of my home crowd. I have family watching over there. It's like playing at home."

Dukes is now the everyday center fielder for the Nationals. Entering Friday's action, Dukes is hitting .253 with six home runs and 27 RBIs. He is currently mired in a 6-for-34 slump (.176). Dukes is not afraid to critique his work up to this point.

"I'm not satisfied with what I'm doing," he said. "I need to be more consistent. I'm trying to keep working and get things turned around."

Pitching matchup
WSH: Craig Stammen, (0-2, 6.45)
Stammen got himself into trouble right away on Sunday against the Mets, walking leadoff hitter Alex Cora, and he proceeded to give up five first-inning runs on three hits, two walks and two wild pitches. "I just didn't have any sink on my fastball," Stammen said. "I didn't make good pitches; anybody can hit those." The Nationals have placed an emphasis on their young pitchers to throw strikes, but Stammen deviated from that plan. On a positive note, he did pitch through the fifth inning without giving up any additional runs.

TB: RHP Matt Garza (4-4, 3.55 ERA)
At age 25, Garza seems to be maturing on the mound, where he has experienced problems controlling his emotions. In the past, Garza has lacked steadiness, but he has been Mr. Consistency in 2009, with eight quality starts in 12 outings. Garza went just five innings on Sunday against the Yankees, but he allowed only two hits while taking a no-decision. Garza will be making his first career start against the Nationals; he is 10-5 with a 3.06 ERA in 22 career starts at Tropicana Field.

In his past 19 games, outfielder Josh Willingham is hitting .327 with four home runs, four RBIs, 10 walks and 12 runs scored. ... Left-hander John Lannan has a 1.72 ERA at Nationals Park this year.

 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• MASN 2

On radio
• WFED 1500, SBN 1390 (Español), ESPN 730 (Sp.)

Up next
• Saturday: Nationals (Jordan Zimmermann, 2-3, 5.71) at Rays (Andy Sonnanstine, 4-6, 7.00), 6:08 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Nationals (Ross Detwiler, 0-3, 5.06) at Rays (James Shields, 5-5, 3.36), 1:38 p.m. ET
• Monday: Off-day

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.