Milledge making move to Double-A

Milledge making move to Double-A

DETROIT -- Lastings Milledge is on his way to New York.

No, Milledge isn't headed to the Big Apple -- not yet, anyway. Rather, the Mets' former first-round pick is headed upstate to play for Double-A Binghamton when the Eastern League begins its second half on Wednesday. Milledge, whom New York chose with the 12th pick in the 2003 draft, has gotten off to a solid start at Class A St. Lucie and the organization believes it's time for him to leave the Florida State League behind.

"We feel he's ready for the next challenge," said Gary LaRocque, New York's vice president for player development and scouting. "He's been steady in St. Lucie for the majority of the season, and he's ready for that next step. We're pleased with him. He did well in St. Lucie and made the kind of strides he needed to make in order to be moved. It's a great opportunity for him, and he deserves the chance to take the next step."

Milledge, who was in the Motor City to play for the United States Team in the XM Satellite Radio Futures Game, is taking the promotion in stride, not getting too excited about the move to Binghamton. He seemed more thrilled on Sunday about being able to joke around with U.S. manager and Hall-of-Famer George Brett while taking batting practice at Comerica Park.

"After I didn't get called up after the first half [of the Florida State League season], I figured I'd be staying there all year," Milledge said. "I figured I would stay there, get my power numbers up and work on improving."

The Mets figured Milledge had done all he could do in Florida, though. He was hitting .302 through 62 games with four homers and 22 RBIs. He also stole 18 bases but has been caught 13 times. And while he has walked 69 times, he's also fanned 66 times, which has raised some red flags for some.

"He's a raw tools guy with electric bat speed," one Major League scout said. "But he needs to learn how to sit back and trust his hands and work the count better. He's a free swinger with a wild approach sometimes. When he's on the bases, he relies on speed only, and he needs to work on his jump and his reads. His arm has showed improvement in the outfield.

"For me, personally, I usually like to see a guy tear up a league before he gets promoted. But sometimes an organization will promote a guy just to say they are promoting a guy and show ownership the players are moving up. But is it good for the player? But he's a talented kid who has all the ingredients to be a solid big league player. For me, he's not a top-of-the-order guy or a middle-of-the-order guy; he's more like a six hitter. I think he'll hit for more power than people will expect and run less than they expect."

Where Milledge, 20, eventually winds up playing is also an issue. He's currently playing center field, the position he's played since he was 15, and, according to LaRocque, that's where he'll stay for the time being. But with Carlos Beltran locked up for the better part of the next decade in New York, the idea that Milledge will be patrolling one of the corner spots someday soon isn't farfetched.

The idea that he could be dangled as trade bait, another plausible scenario, would have some worried. But Milledge isn't worrying about where he'll be playing or for whom, choosing to remain focused on the task at hand rather than be bogged down by outside distractions.

"I don't take too many flies in right or left, but I can play there," he said. "I have the feel for it. I really worked out hard there in Spring Training after they signed Beltran. I worked hard and got the angles. As of right now, I want to be the starting center fielder in Shea Stadium.

"I'm not disappointed at all about them getting Beltran. I want to be the starting center fielder there, and I want to take someone's job. I'm not saying I will, and I'm not saying I won't. I just want to get to the big leagues and help win a ring for my team, and if I have to play catcher to do that, I will," said Milledge, who played left field Sunday and was hitless in his only at-bat.

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