Lastings Milledge knows with the way he stands at the plate, getting hit by pitches is an occupational hazard. Recently, it has been an especially big part of his job.
Milledge had been hit by a pitch in each of the last two games entering Friday night. In the fifth inning of Thursday’s win over the Dodgers, he was struck in the left forearm by a pitch, jumped out of the batter’s box and tossed his helmet in pain before walking to first base.
He has been hit 13 times this season, tied for second most in the National League with Milwaukee’s Rickie Weeks.
It’s nothing new for Milledge - he broke his hand in 2004 from a pitch, was plunked 17 times in the minors in 2005 and got hit 19 times between the majors and minors in 2006 - and he said he has no plans to change his approach.
“It’s just part of the game, you know? Nobody’s going to run me out of there,” Milledge said. “One of these times, they might catch me and put me out for a while, but when I come back, I’m going to be right there. They can do whatever they want to do. That’s just how I hit.”
If Milledge’s attitude toward getting drilled is almost nonchalant, it’s because he knows his crowd-the-plate batting stance doesn’t play well with pitchers. He wears an elbow guard because of the frequent beanings but said he has no plans to add any more protective gear.
Neither is the approach bothersome to manager Manny Acta, who cited the fact that league MVP candidate Chase Utley leads the NL with 20 hit-by-pitches.
“They’re trying to pitch him inside, and that’s always good if he’s not backing down,” Acta said. “Another guy who gets hit a lot is another very good hitter in this league, Utley.”
Given Milledge’s progress as a hitter (he leads the Nationals with 13 home runs and is batting .294 with six homers and 16 RBI in his last 32 games), it appears his sometimes-painful plan is here to stay.
”It’s just putting yourself in the best hitting position you can and feeling comfortable where you are. I don’t feel comfortable anyplace else but right on the plate,” Milledge said. “Either you live with or you keep hitting me. If you keep hitting, then you’re going to put your other players in danger.”
Surgery likely for Hill
Right-hander Shawn Hill, who has been out since June with forearm pain and was shut down for the season this week after feeling discomfort in his elbow while working on a throwing program designed to get him back in the majors by September, likely will have arthroscopic surgery to clean out bony buildup surrounding the posterial medial ligament of his elbow.
Hill will see Dr. Tom Hunt at the University of Alabama at Birmingham next Wednesday to examine his forearm, and would have the surgery assuming there is nothing else wrong with his arm.
He had surgery to decompress the radial nerve in his right forearm last fall and missed the 2005 season after Tommy John surgery.
“It’s a mystery,” team orthopedist Ben Shaffer said. “In pitchers, the forces across the elbow and the forearm are enormous. It doesn’t appear to be anything structural.”