Mailbag: Time to consider Milledge?

Mailbag: Time to consider playing Milledge?

First, I think that if it wasn't for his excessive salary and contract length, Carlos Beltran could become the Mets' version of Wally Pipp. I believe that Lastings Milledge will eventually bring a better version of Beltran's game to the Mets lineup. But aside from the contract, this is going to be a potential problem for the Mets all year. Milledge can absolutely play center field in the Majors, but the Mets probably won't call him up for only a couple of weeks at a time each time Beltran gets hurt this year.

Secondly, the Mets have been exposed for a lack of depth and a thin bench. If the Mets don't improve their bench quickly, they can't hope to win games in the dog days of summer when players need a blow.

To that end then, would you trade Victor Zambrano back to the Devil Rays for Ty Wigginton and a spare outfielder -- or even straight up? He could occasionally spell David Wright, replace Cliff Floyd against tough lefties, fill in at second base and come off the bench as a pinch-hitter. With Mike Pelfrey maybe only an All-Star break away, why not go for it?
-- Tony R., Kinderhook, N.Y.

You raise some points and my eyebrows. Yes, Beltran has been injured and missed nearly two weeks. But before the injury and in his second game back Sunday, he played well above his level of 2005. He has demonstrated power well beyond what he showed last season, when everything he did was compromised by his strained quad. His play in the outfield, before the injury, was more aggressive, too.

Milledge looks like the real deal. But no one in the game anticipates him coming to the game and immediately playing at Beltran's level. Beltran has been a disappointment because of the injuries. But he remains an immensely talented player who can fuel this Mets team. Milledge may not need a full season at Triple-A, but it's unlikely that he'll be promoted for anything less than an extended period.

With him, as with any prospect, the Mets would prefer to afford him three months to ripen, and that would include going through a slump and learning to deal with adjusting to a higher level. Every hitter, Albert Pujols included, goes through down periods. And learning to deal with adversity is as much a part of the development process as learning to hit the breaking ball.

The bench is flawed -- there is a need for left-handed pop, and Jose Valentin didn't get off well at all. But manager Willie Randolph is hardly in a position to play Ramon Castro more. What happens if he pinch-hits Castro in the seventh and Paul Lo Duca goes down in the eighth? Julio Franco won one game on the West Coast and put the Mets ahead in another.

As far as Zambrano goes, who knows? Would the Rays take him back? They want youth, and he's 30. Wiggington would be a fit perhaps if the Mets didn't have Chris Woodward, Franco and Victor Diaz.

I like Beltran -- I just don't feel we need him and the injuries. Endy Chavez has been doing some damage, and there's always Milledge. Why not trade Beltran for a solid, perhaps All-Star pitcher -- say, Dontrelle Willis? That would also take care of the ongoing problem of Zambrano. Honestly, I don't expect to win whenever he pitches. What do you think?
-- Hugh X., N.J.

The only reason the Marlins traded away their talent was money. Do you think they would assume the huge obligation connected to Beltran?

With the Mets' sudden lack of offense, doesn't it make sense to release Valentin and call up Diaz again?
-- Josh H., Dallas

Obviously, your e-mail was sent before Diaz was promoted. Valentin was unproductive at first, but he has already begun to make more contact. The Mets still need more left-handed hitting off the bench. They recently signed Michael Tucker to a Minor League deal. He might have something left, but he lacks the versatility that Valentin has.

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I've noticed the enormous shift opposing teams apply against Carlos Delgado. Why doesn't he go to left field with his hits? He is more likely to get on base if he puts the ball in play instead of trying to hit for power.
-- Matthew L., Blairstown, N.J.

Most pull hitters believe that adjusting their swings to combat an overshift constitutes playing into their opponents' hands. In some cases, opponents would be pleased if Delgado produced a two-out, opposite-field single rather than a bases-empty home run, pulled to right. They will have minimized his impact and, depending on how they pitched him, possibly affected his swing adversely. Pitches thrown to batters when an overshift is in place often are different from what the batter would see if the defensive alignment weren't so extreme.

I see that the Marlins are willing to part with Willis. What about a trade for Milledge? Both are young, but the Mets would get a proven starting pitcher, which they can really use.
-- David D., Fontana, Calif.

With the Mets in first place and looking very much like the best team in the division, general manager Omar Minaya is not inclined to deal the team's primary position-player prospect. If the injury to Brian Bannister, the solution to his absence and the performance of Zambrano are seen as problems, the Mets may have to look for another starter or two. Milledge, a likely part of the 2007 outfield, would be a lot to pay for any pitcher likely to be available. Willis might be an exception.

How does arbitration affect Mike Pelfrey? Since he signed a Major League contract, when does he become eligible for arbitration, if ever? If not, would that grant him free agent status after his current four-year deal expires?
-- Mike S., Whitestone, N.Y.

Elibigibiliy for arbitration and free agency is based on Major League service, not having a Major League contract or being on the 40-man roster.

How is Pedro Martinez's toe coming along? Is he still feeling pain, or are the gel pads in his shoes working?
-- Shawn A., Great Neck, N.Y.

The toe is an ongoing, probably permanent problem. It causes him pain, but he says that it's no longer an issue.

Now that he's hit one into McCovey Cove, have Floyd's impressions of AT&T Park changed?
-- Matthew L., Blairstown, N.J


Why is Woodward treated like he is the worst player on the team? He came up with several key hits last year off the bench, and Randolph refuses to play him in a 14-inning game in which the only other hitter not to play is the backup catcher. It seems to me that Woodward is clearly a better hitter than Chavez, Valentin or Franco and can play just about any position. Why doesn't he see much playing time?
-- S.K., New York

Woodward is one of Randolph's favorites. His not being used in the 14-inning game in San Diego is more a function of the manager holding him for a more opportune instance than it is about "refusing" to let Woodward play.

I have noticed recently that quite a few Mets players have begun sporting some facial hair. Most notably, Jose Reyes, LoDuca, and Delgado. Has Randolph eased off of his no-facial-hair policy of last year? If so, why?
-- Ben McConnell, Allentown, Pa.

Randolph ended his facial-hair prohibition because he didn't think it was necessary.

Marty Noble is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.