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02/11/10 1:06 PM EST

Nationals, Dukes agree to terms

Not eligible for arbitration until after '10, outfielder gets $444K

The Nationals and outfielder Elijah Dukes have agreed to terms on a $444,000 contract. If Dukes did not agree to terms, there was a possibility the team could have renewed his contract before the Grapefruit League season started.

Dukes is not eligible for arbitration until after the 2010 season, and in an interview with MLB.com in January, Dukes said that he realizes he must perform to earn big money in order to help his mother, Phyllis.

"It's always important to have a big year every year, but it's really most important to get this big year right now," Dukes said in January. "This can basically change the whole lifestyle of my mother. Putting up a big year can change her life a little faster than expected. It would be a good thing for me and kind of relieve the everyday stress off her, which she has gone through for the last 49 years."

Last season, Dukes played in 107 games and hit .250 with eight home runs and 58 RBIs.

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