Mini Camp: Lastings' Impression

With most of the Major Leaguers heading for home Thursday night, the last day of Mini Camp featured mostly prospects and younger players looking to improve their position in the organization toiling under the hot Florida sun and Lastings Milledge is making a lasting impression.

Outfielders Milledge, Cory Wells, and Bobby Malek worked hard in the cage for the bulk of the morning. Milledge has shown a terrific attitude and a solid work ethic, which is starting to pay off as he routinely sprayed line drives around the outfield making consistent solid contact in his sessions today, while demonstrating the impressive bat speed that led to his high rating prior to last seasons draft.

Milledge has consistently been one of the last players off the field all week at Mini Camp and continues to wow onlookers with his brilliant athleticism. Most impressive has been his speed, as he effortlessly leaves teammates in his wake during running drills. Additionally, Lastings has made himself accessible to fans for autographs, often stopping and chatting with fans while the other players head for the clubhouse.

Milledge, who only made a brief appearance at Kingsport last season after signing, has worked diligently in St. Lucie through Fall Instructional League and now Mini Camp. The hope is that he will progress enough to stick at a full season level next year (Cap City?) and begin racking up the development at bats he needs to be ready for Shea when Mike Cameron's newly inked 3 year deal runs out.

Most of the candidates for the open fifth slot in the Mets' rotation remained in camp working with coaches Rick Waits and Randy Niemann on perfecting the drills that are the first step in Rick Peterson's new training regimen. Aaron Heilman, Jeremy Griffiths, Jason Anderson, and Pat Strange all took turns working on a bullpen mound before being driven into submission by the strength and conditioning staff.

The starters were joined by relievers Dan Wheeler, Grant Roberts, Jaime Cerda, and Bob Keppel who is working diligently after minor arm soreness curtailed his work both during the season and the Arizona Fall League. Keppel said he would stay in town and continue workouts at the complex next week.

Outfielder Bobby Malek will also remain in St. Lucie until Spring Training to continue working with the coaching staff in preparation for the 2004 season which will likely see him start at AA Binghamton. Malek has drawn the interest of coaches and management all week while he has taken his turns in the cage.

Around The Water Cooler

Other tidbits heard around camp. The NY Daily News' Adam Rubin reported yesterday that former '86 Met Bobby Ojeda has left the organization and will continue to pursue a job as a pitching coach hopefully at the Major League level.

Braden Looper reported is delighted with the brief time he got to work with Rick Peterson and has apparently added a couple of extra MPH to his fastball by implementing Peterson's techniques.

Tim Teufel, who managed the Brooklyn Cyclones last year, is the unofficial most likely candidate to manage the high A St. Lucie Mets in 2004, replacing Ken Oberkfell who was promoted from St. Lucie to Binghamton. St. Lucie pitching coach Dan Warthen is rumored to be joining John Stearns' staff in Norfolk for 2004 in the same capacity.

PHOTOS: Roberts(2), Hill, Strange(2), Heilman, Anderson, Roberts, Anderson, Wheeler, Strange, Anderson, Baldiris, Malek, Baldiris, Cerda, Jacobs(5), Keppel(2), Malek, Davidson(3), Wells, Malek, Milledge, Waits(2), Ragsdale, Wells(2), Milledge(2) Davidson, Malek, Milledge.

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