Q&A: Lastings Milledge

Mets top prospect Lastings Milledge made his major league debut on May 30 against Arizona, receiving his first call to The Show after outfielder Xavier Nady was forced to undergo an emergency appendectomy.

The Mets' first-round selection in the 2003 draft, Milledge's progress through New York's farm system has been closely tracked. Having already chalked up his first big league hit – a double off Miguel Batista – and a memorable outfield assist from right field, Milledge could be making his case to hang around Shea Stadium for a while longer.

Four days into your first call-up to the big leagues, what's your progress report like so far? Have you adjusted as well as you thought you would?

Everything's been good. Everything is like it's supposed to be. I expected excitement coming up here, because that's what the big leagues are supposed to be; excitement every day. Just getting yourself ready to play every day in front of a big crowd is what you expect.

Tell me a little bit about getting the call to the big leagues for the first time. Where were you, and who told you?

Tony Tijerina told me. I was actually sleeping, but he gave me a call. It wasn't clear at first – I kind of knew, but he said, 'Just be ready.' I just stayed by my phone, and he called back about five minutes later and said, 'You've been called up.' It was pretty exciting.

You were with Triple-A Norfolk, playing a series in Pawtucket, R.I. But it turned out to be a challenge getting to New York, wasn't it?

The first plane I was supposed to be on (leaving Providence, R.I.) got cancelled, and then my second plane was delayed for like 30 minutes. But I got here (to New York). I didn't panic, but I did want to get here. Obviously, I couldn't do anything if the plane wasn't there, but I just wanted to play. I didn't panic too much, but when the second plane was delayed, I said, 'Well, I'll just play tomorrow.' But it turned out I was able to play.

The reaction you got from the fans when you came to bat for the first time seemed pretty impressive. Did it seem clear that the fans knew who you were and were happy to see you hear?

It was good. I didn't expect them to show me that much support, and that was good. I think most of it is from hearing about me, and a lot of people wanted me up here. They know the story behind me, and a lot of stuff. That's why I think they pulled for me when I first got up here, even when I made an error. Then I threw a guy out at third base.

That outfield assist came in a scoreless game against the Diamondbacks, throwing out Craig Counsell at third base. Do you think it was important to create a sort of 'trademark' moment early in your career here, something that people will be able to point to?

Yeah, it is. You definitely want to establish a good relationship with the fans and have them pull for you. That's the biggest thing, especially in New York – you want the fans behind you. You definitely don't want them against you. Right now, I'm trying to establish that.

You had your first hit in your first game, a double off Miguel Batista. Which was better, the double or the outfield assist in the next game?

Definitely, throwing the guy out at third. That saves a run, and at the time, it was 0-0. If I had to pick and choose one, I'd definitely choose the assist because you can get a hit easier than an assist. Especially to help out a team – when I got my first hit, it didn't help the team that much because we were down by five or six runs. When I threw the guy out, it helped us win.

The original lineup for Friday's game had Endy Chavez playing centerfield in place of Carlos Beltran, and someone asked Willie Randolph if he'd considered playing you in centerfield instead. He said no, because you came up as a right fielder and he doesn't want to 'yo-yo' you around. What are your thoughts on changing positions?

As long as I have a uniform here and I'm able to go out and play a position, I'm all right. I don't have a preference. If they call me to play center, I'll play center. If they call me to play left, I'll play left. That's what I've been working on for the last five or six months.

Until just recently, you had never played a corner outfield position. Now, you're capable of playing all three. How is that progress coming along?

I played in the (Arizona) Fall League and in spring training. That's enough time to get some reps in and not be a liability out there. It helped me fit in a little bit. Right field was tough, because the slice is different. Left was the easier one to get adjusted to. Things are good.

How much of New York did you wind up seeing this week, other than your hotel and Shea Stadium?

Not much yet. But I've been here (to New York) before, so I know what it's all about. I'm here to play ball. Sightseeing is second.


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