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Milledge glad to know he's wanted
Herald Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG - A central figure in rumor central, Lastings Milledge saw the television reports and read a few of the newspaper clippings.
First, reports said, the Palmetto native, Lakewood Ranch High graduate and top New York Mets prospect was headed to Texas in a deal involving Rangers second baseman Alfonso Soriano.
Then, he was off to the Boston Red Sox, packaged along with Mets outfielder Mike Cameron, for Manny Ramirez. Milledge was even rumored, for a short time, to be headed to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the days leading up to Sunday's 4 p.m. non-waiver trade deadline.
By the time the deadline arrived, none of the deals had materialized, and Milledge went on being the Mets' No. 1 prospect.
For the record, here's how the 20-year-old center fielder reacted to the buzz:
"The only reason my name was mentioned in any of those trades was that so many teams wanted me," Milledge said Sunday evening via cell phone.
The fact he wasn't dealt should tell you something about his perceived value to the Mets and general manager Omar Minaya. Minaya has targeted Ramirez for some time and was starving for a big-time second baseman like Soriano, but ultimately couldn't pull the trigger on anything involving Milledge, the No. 12 pick in the 2003 draft.
"You're going to read that the Mets offered, as part of the deal, Milledge to the Boston Red Sox," Devil Rays general manager Chuck LaMar said Sunday evening at Tropicana Field. "By all indications, that never took place. The Mets made him untouchable throughout this trade deadline."
Which is precisely what Milledge, who through Saturday was batting .348 in 16 games since being promoted to the Double-A Binghamton (N.Y.) Mets, had suspected.
"I knew it was going to be that way," Milledge said. "I didn't worry."
Was he flattered to be mentioned as part of such noteworthy deals involving big-name players?
"Yeah, of course," Milledge said. "It means a lot when they decline a trade for Manny to hold on to me."
Young Tampa Bay left-hander Scott Kazmir, a former top Mets prospect who was traded to the Devil Rays a year ago, is familiar with Milledge and said the Rays would be fortunate to nab a player of his caliber.
"He's an unbelievable talent," said Kazmir, who is 6-7 with a 4.28 ERA and leads the Rays with 106 strikeouts.
Milledge, on the other hand, wasn't so keen on ending up with his hometown organization.
"What's the chance of some team trading its top two prospects to the same team?" Milledge asked, referring to himself and Kazmir. "I didn't want to be in Tampa Bay. I don't think it would have been a good situation."
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