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Milledge makes a Lastings impression on Nats

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We’ll get to Lastings Milledge and his impressive debut for the Pirates in a 5-4 win over the Nationals tonight, but first a couple of tidbits…

— Elijah Dukes and Jorge Sosa will be called up from Class AAA Syracuse tomorrow to fill the spots vacated by Nick Johnson and Joe Beimel. Dukes, who was hitting .288 with three homers and 10 RBI in 19 games since his demotion, will get the bulk of the playing time in right field. That moves Josh Willingham to left field and Adam Dunn to first base, though Jim Riggleman said Willingham could get some time at first base (and indeed he played one inning there tonight). Sosa, meanwhile, will slot into the bullpen. He was 1-2 with a 2.79 ERA in 20 appearances for Syracuse.

— I neglected to mention earlier that the two trades today also include the Nats sending some money to the Marlins and Rockies. The Nats will pay $1.5 million of the approximately $2 million still owed Nick Johnson. They’ll also pay $300,000 of the approximately $600,000 still owed Joe Beimel.

Now, as for Milledge … he looked pretty impressive in his Bucs debut. Batting second and playing left field, he went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBI singles. The latter accounted for the winning run. More impressive was the way Milledge spoke afterward. This was not the cocky young kid who rubbed people in New York and Washington the wrong way. This was a humble and gracious 24-year-old who understands the importance of the opportunity he’s getting now.

A sampling of what Milledge had to say:

Noting this debut felt different than his previous ones with the Mets and Nats: “Just for the simple fact that I really earned my way to be here. I really deserve to be here. I worked just as hard as anybody around, and I really felt good about what I was doing. That was the first time I didn’t have a chip on my shoulder at Triple-A, and I really took that time to develop my skills.”

On being one of the centerpieces of the Pirates’ new-look lineup: “It’s good, especially somebody who wants you and really believes in what you can do and what you bring to the table. I just want to play my hardest and be as successful as possible.”

On the chance for redemption: “It’s always good to have another opportunity. I feel like I’m going to be more precious with it, not take anything for granted.”

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Mark Zuckerman

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