The Nationals release Elijah Dukes

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11:07:  A couple of conflicting reports are emerging regarding Dukes. A few minutes ago former Nats’ GM and current XM radio host Jim Bowden said “After latest incident, credit Nats for making right decision.” No mention of what the “incident” was. Bowden can be a tremendous tool at times, but he also still has some connections in the Nats’ front office who have passed him information on the sly in the past. (UPDATE: Jim Bowden has apparently now deleted all of his tweets, so perhaps it’s best not to listen to what he has to say about Dukes. Not that we ever should have been listening anyway). 

Meanwhile, MASN’s Ben Goessling is being told by Jim Riggleman and Nats’ officials that the Dukes release is “strictly a baseball decision” and that the team “feels they can get better production from combo of others.”  With respect to off-the-field issues, someone else tells Ben that “You can dig and dig all you want. There’s nothing.”

For Dukes’ sake you hope that Goessling is correct. For the Nats’ sake you hope Bowden is. Why? Because absent any off-the-field junk, Dukes had real trade value, and the Nats just gave him away for nothing.

10:14 A.M.: MASN’s Ben Goessling tweets that he was just told that the release does not have anything to do with off-the-field issues.  Which, while perhaps comforting for Dukes’ sake and for the sake of the innocent civilians of Viera, Florida, makes this move even more bizarre.  Why don’t you send him down? Why don’t you explore a trade?

The Nats’ official Twitter feed just announced that the team has released Elijah Dukes.  No reasons given yet. We’ll obviously update when we hear something.

Quick reaction:  Dukes is a pretty decent player, and despite his history, he’s more or less been a good citizen for a year or two.  He is cheap too. If the Nats wanted to get rid of him, why wouldn’t they try to trade him?  Or send him down to the minors? Why the unconditional release? There has to be something major behind all of this.

One hates to assume but, apart from a serious off-the-field issue, what possible reason would the Nats have for releasing him unconditionally? Doing so is a statement that he has no value, and the only thing I can think of that would transform Dukes from a moderately valuable commodity to zero value is an incident of some sort.

Also: does this open up a spot for Ian Desmond? Can he play right? Can Cristian Guzman?

Nick Pivetta to rejoin Phillies’ rotation

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Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Nick Pivetta will rejoin the Phillies’ rotation, starting Tuesday’s series opener at home against the Cardinals. Vince Velasquez will remain in the bullpen.

Pivetta, 26, allowed 17 earned runs on 31 hits and eight walks with 16 strikeouts in 18 1/3 innings across his first four starts of the season. The performance resulted in a demotion to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. In six starts there, Pivetta had a much better 3.41 ERA with a 50/20 K/BB ratio in 37 innings of work.

Velasquez, 26, was solid as a starter, posting a 3.99 ERA across six starts. However, he averaged under five innings and 92 pitches per start. The right-hander tossed two scoreless innings out of the bullpen on Friday against the Brewers but was torched for four runs in two-thirds of an inning on Sunday. Mixed results, to say the least. The Phillies are trying to do what they can with their bullpen, currently missing David Robertson, Tommy Hunter, Pat Neshek, and Vìctor Arano.