April 15, 2009

Gratuitous Nats Posting - Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Division


I realize that I have very little expertice in these matters, but I am stunned that Lastings Milledge is being sent to the minors:

The Nationals optioned center fielder Lastings Milledge to Triple-A Syracuse on Tuesday. The club has not announced a corresponding move.

Milledge was given the news about his demotion in a phone conversation with acting general manager Mike Rizzo.

Milledge, 24, is off to a slow start, batting .167 (4-for-24) with one RBI. Milledge was the leadoff hitter, and the front office didn't like the fact that he didn't take enough pitches to draw walks.

It was an adventure for Milledge in center field so far this season. On Opening Day against the Marlins on April 6, Emilio Bonifacio hit a ball that went over Milledge's head for an inside-the-park home run in the fifth inning.

The next day, Bonifacio hit a triple that went over Milledge's glove. In both cases, some people in the organization believe Milledge should have caught the ball. Not Milledge. He followed the scouting report, which said to play shallow.

"It was a shocker," Milledge said via telephone. "I thought I would be given more than 24 at-bats [to get it going]. Mike is the boss, so he has to do what was best for the team. He told me I needed to work on my hitting and defense."

Well, with an average of something like .167, it's hard to argue about the hitting. But the defense? On Monday, Milledge made three or four great catches without which the loss to the Rat-Bastards Phillies would have been considerably worse.

Personally, I think the move was somewhat premature. But again, what do I know?

The good news is that it appears the team is just interested in maturing the kid a little:

The team had warned Milledge about a possible demotion since Opening Day. Members of the organization were upset that Milledge was late for a meeting held by manager Manny Acta the day before, and they wanted Milledge to sit out for Opening Day. Acta refused, however, so the team fined Milledge instead.

But Rizzo said character issues had nothing to do with the demotion. It was a matter of Milledge improving his game at Syracuse. Milledge will most likely play all three outfield positions and bat leadoff.

"He took the demotion like a professional," Rizzo said. "We had a good dialogue about a lot of things. He was unhappy and eager to show me that he belongs in the Major Leagues. Lastings Milledge plays extremely hard. I have very little problems with Lastings' attitude and his work ethic.

"A lot of things will tell us how long he is going to stay down in Triple-A. The progression of Lastings, the makeup of the ballclub, where we are at during the season, how we are playing ... will lead us to the answer.

So perhaps he won't be out of teh Show for too long.

The other good news, at least from Mrs. Robbo's perspective, is that this move means more playing time for Austin Kearns. I believe that when we go to Nats games, Mrs. Robbo deliberately gets seats down the right field line so she can watch him up close.


Posted by Robert at April 15, 2009 08:13 AM | TrackBack

Those were amazing catches by Milledge on Monday,especially if you compared his work out there to Adam Dunn's. Dunn may be a hitter, but he was plain slow in LF.

and this ISNT the time of year you want to be in Syracuse, they may still get snow.

Posted by: NOVA Curmudgeon at April 15, 2009 10:26 AM

I haven't been following the NL East, so I don't know how your team's doing, but maybe it's a case where the rest of the team is more capable of making up for the loss if his defensive abilities than they are the need for some hits?

Posted by: Boy Named Sous at April 16, 2009 01:21 AM