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Well-traveled Milledge at a crossroads in his career

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



GLENDALE, Ariz. — Lastings Milledge says he has grown up some since he high-fived New York Mets fans after hitting a home run at Shea Stadium — before the game was over — and learned a few other lessons since he came into the pros as a first-round draft pick in 2003.

His up-and-down career finds itself at a crossroads at the White Sox’ spring-training camp, where the outfielder is looking to win a bench role as a non-roster invitee.

“I’ve definitely been through a lot,’’ Milledge said. “The things I was through was rough at the time, but .  .  . it was a blessing to learn a lot of things.’’

A “know your place Rook!” note, attached to Milledge’s locker after the high-five scene in 2006, was an eye-opener. Milledge also went through messy off-the-field issues, recorded a rap song using offensive language to women and as recently as December was in the middle of an on-field fight in a Venezuelan Winter League game.

The Sox are taking a chance that Milledge, 25, will reach his first-round potential. His best season was 2008 with the Washington Nationals, when he batted .268 with 14 homers, 61 RBI and 24 stolen bases. With the Pittsburgh Pirates last year, his third team in five seasons, he batted .277 with four homers and 44 RBI in 379 at-bats. Measuring up to the high expectation will be an ongoing battle.

“How do you handle that? How do you bounce back?’’ said Milledge, who had his long hair cut off by his girlfriend. “I don’t have all the answers. I have a pretty good plan on how you approach things.

‘‘First of all, I’ve got to get on the roster.’’

Lineup not a Dunn deal

Manager Ozzie Guillen has a good idea what his lineup will look like, but he isn’t tipping his hand until he discusses his thoughts with general manager Ken Williams and his coaches. He did say Adam Dunn will bat third or fourth, which comes as no surprise. Guillen likely will unveil his favored order when the Sox play their first exhibition game Monday against the Los ­Angeles Dodgers.

One reporter’s repeated ­questions about the order finally got to Guillen on Wednesday.

“Go out and buy the [bleeping] ticket and you’ll find out,” he said.

Feeling fine

After seven days, all is well on the health front for Sox pitchers.

“Right now, everybody is feeling good,’’ pitching coach Don Cooper said. “We haven’t had any injuries, so that is the main thing.’’



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