Lastings Milledge struts his stuff in quest for Sox job
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN email@example.com March 17, 2011 7:56PM
The White Sox' Lastings Milledge hit his third and fourth home runs of the spring Thursday against the Rockies. | Ron Vesely~Getty Images
Updated: July 1, 2011 12:16AM
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Lastings Milledge, who knows the weight of great expectations, is taking things lightly and enjoying his place in the White Sox’ clubhouse. He continued to do heavy damage with his bat as he pursues a job with his fourth team in five seasons.
‘‘There are a lot of good players here, a lot more who are way more established than I am,’’ Milledge said Thursday. ‘‘I’m not going to be looked on as a savior or a guy that is going to hold the organization together, so that’s kind of good. . . . Whatever production they get out of me is a plus. I’m not a key piece.’’
After hitting his third and fourth home runs of spring training in a 12-6 split-squad victory against the Colorado Rockies in Scottsdale, Ariz., Milledge, a non-roster invitee to camp, looks more and more like a key piece on the Sox’ bench. He is batting .314 with nine RBI.
‘‘I worked real hard this offseason,’’ said Milledge, who batted .277 with four homers and 34 RBI in 379 at-bats with the Pittsburgh Pirates last season. ‘‘It’s good to see I’m where I should be as far as driving the ball, my plate discipline and things like that.’’
A first-round draft pick by the New York Mets in 2003, Milledge has encountered his share of off-the-field issues before and during his major-league career. But he came to Sox camp with a humble, nose-to-the-grindstone approach.
‘‘Every year except for ’08, I had to fight for a job anyway,’’ Milledge said. ‘‘I know what it’s about; I know what I have to do. I don’t get caught in the fighting-for-a-job thing because if I do what I have to do, I’ll be on the team. I know what I have to do to get on there.’’
Knowing Milledge can play all the outfield positions, general manager Ken Williams offered him a chance. There were conditions, including that he cut his hair. Needing work, Milledge handed his girlfriend the clippers.
‘‘He’s a very flashy player; I thought too much flash,’’ Williams said last week. ‘‘My first conversation [with him] was, ‘We don’t allow yellow shoelaces and braids to down to your number.’
‘‘He was very excited about the opportunity, and he has fit in perfectly.’’
Milledge has been removing his helmet halfway to home plate after home runs. He came under fire from media and veteran teammates as a Mets rookie for high-fiving fans during a game after a homer.
‘‘I mean, it was what it was,’’ Milledge said. ‘‘To this day, I play with a lot of emotion. I love to win; I love to do good. People can make me [out] to be a villain, a thug, whatever. That’s fine. Because all I care about is what my teammates think about me.
‘‘You can talk to any of these guys or my old teammates who sat down and talked to me, and they’ll tell you I’m a good person. I don’t really care about what people say about what I did because it’s not important to me. What’s important to me is these 25 guys that I’m going to be with more than my family. If they like the way I play and the way I show my emotion, that’s fine. Anybody else is not worth my time to worry about.’’