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Last Chance to Make An Impression?

Mets' OF Milledge May Be Playing As A Showcase Lastings Milledge is back from the minor leagues after being sent down in the beginning of the season and rehabbing an injury. How long his stay ...

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Mets' OF Milledge May Be Playing As A Showcase

Lastings Milledge is back from the minor leagues after being sent down in the beginning of the season and rehabbing an injury. How long his stay in Flushing this time is a mystery. Right now, he is the Mets' everyday leftfielder after veteran Moises Alou and rookie Carlos Gomez were both placed on the disabled list.

The 41 year-old Alou has been out since May 17 with a strained right quadriceps muscle. On Monday, he made a rehab start in Florida and may be ready to return shortly. Gomez broke a bone in his left hand on July 5 and will miss six to eight weeks after undergoing surgery.

The fourth outfielder at the beginning of the season was Endy Chavez. But, he too, is on the disabled list with a hamstring injury with no timetable for his return. With all this bad luck, at least one player has benefited.

Milledge had a tough initiation into the major leagues a year ago and needed to be humbled. The 'bling' cross necklace, high-fiving the fans, having nightmares from The Green Monster and the 'Hey, rook...' note left on his locker, the youngster needed to just stay out of the limelight for a bit.

But that is exactly what he could not do when his hip-hop alter ego came to light. 'L. Millz' sang on a CD entitled "Bend Ya Knees," which included lyrics that were worse than Anna Benson's Mrs. Clause dress. And the image-conscious Mets do not usually let bad press clippings just fade away.

Since being recalled, Milledge has been a sparkplug and his bat and hustle on the basepaths cannot be overlooked. He has a long way to go to learn all the nuances of the game, such as throwing to the wrong base and allowing the trailing runner to advance. But he does have skills and merely needs to hone them with maturity.

The non-waiver trading deadline is July 31 and the Mets need improvements in many areas, even though they lead the NL East by 1 1/2 games as of this writing. Milledge may be expendable in order to acquire more pitching help or a veteran outfielder.

Mets' GM Omar Minaya commented to reporters, "It's always a big help when you play well. And when other teams can see, it's even better."

That can be taken many ways. Milledge may have been recalled out of necessity, but using him as often as the Mets have may be looked at as a way to showcase him. If that is accurate, then his hot bat may have his value back to where it was before he was recalled in 2006. But Minaya may be playing a mind game with his youthful outfielder to light a spark under him.

"If I can't get [playing time], then obviously I'm going to go back down," Milledge said to reporters. "It really depends on how we play Moises when he gets back, because Shawn Green is going to be in right and Moises is going to be in left. I don't think I'll be doing much coming off the bench."

As of Monday, Milledge has gone 4 for 15 with 1 home run and 5 RBI in four games. If the right deal comes along, Minaya might just be interested enough to ship the former number one draft choice out of town.