Alomar and Milledge Looking to Earn a Spot
by: Patrick Hickey, Jr. | Senior Writer - NY Sports Day | Sunday, February 25, 2007

Ask any major league ballplayer and they’ll all tell you something similar. Spring training can prove to be the equivalent of a nuclear meltdown or an intergalactic nebula; or in laymen’s terms, the death of a career or the beginning of a new one.

Just ask Andres Galaragga and Bret Boone, who came to Mets camp the past two seasons to see their careers end right before their very eyes, or Endy Chavez, who revitalized his career after a success camp with the team last season before becoming an eventual playoff hero.

This season however, it looks like both Sandy Alomar Jr. and Lastings Milledge will try to thwart the baseball gods and make a team that looks like it doesn’t needs them.

Coming off a solid season at where he hit .278 with 18 RBI’s in only 47 games, the 40-year-old Alomar Jr. believes he can still be a competent backup and will need to bump out Ramon Castro or hope for an injury that will give him a chance to prove himself before he can cement a spot on the team’s 40-man roster.

"That's probably the line that people draw, he's 40, he's done," Alomar told MLB.com. "But I don't feel that way. I've kept myself in great shape. And when you're a backup, it's not as much a question of your endurance; it's what you can do on the days they need you to fill in.

"I really feel that based on ability, I can still play for somebody. That's why I'm here. When you can show them that you're in shape, they can see for themselves."

In Lastings Milledge’s case however, unlike Alomar’s, the Mets organization knows that if given the opportunity, Milledge can thrive, but feel that he may not be ready for the opportunity to showcase himself at the Major League level as of yet. Showing numerous times last season that he may have some growing up to do before he can succeed in the big leagues, Mets manager Willie Randolph will be keeping a close eye on Milledge this spring to see where the 22-year old is mentally.

“Could he have grown up in the last six months?" Randolph told MLB.com. "That's what we want to see. What I like to see in young kids is an awareness. I'm going to be watching him for just that reason, to see how much he's matured."

While Milledge himself understands the journey he has to take in order to be a major leaguer on a permanent basis, the former first-round pick feels that if given an opportunity, he can silence all the critics.

"You learn to carry yourself as a man, you learn to be accountable. When you're young, you don't know what's out there. Now I know how to handle business, know what's going on. People who've paid attention to my career know what I can do," Milledge told MLB.com. "That's people who really know me as a player. They know what I have. Now it's just putting it together and putting up nice numbers."

With faces like Ben Johnson, Ruben Sierra, David Newhan and Endy Chavez all jockeying for position with Milledge for an opportunity to be the fourth outfielder at Shea this summer, Milledge will need to do a lot more than prove he’s matured.

Otherwise, it could just be the beginning of another nuclear meltdown in spring training, or even more catastrophic for Milledge… a summer at Triple-A.