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07/31/09 11:00 PM ET

Milledge learning to maximize his talent

Pittsburgh (44-58) vs. Washington (32-71), 7:05 p.m. ET

PITTSBURGH -- Assessing his return to the Majors, Lastings Milledge sees playing for the Pirates as just one of the new aspects.

"I kind of had everything given to me throughout my career, being a first-rounder," Milledge said. "This time, I really had to up my game. My work habits had to get better. That was probably the biggest thing of getting back here."

Milledge, who was drafted by the Mets in the first round of the 2003 First-Year Player Draft, went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs in his Bucs debut on Friday while hitting at No. 2 in the order and manning left field. He'll suit up for his second game with the Pirates when they play the Nationals at PNC Park on Saturday night.

Before arriving in Pittsburgh, Milledge played in the Pirates' Minor League system since getting traded by the Nationals as part of a four-player deal on June 30. Most of his Minor League appearances with the Pirates came with Triple-A Indianapolis. In 17 games with the Indians, Milledge hit .333 and drove in seven runs while posting a .425 on-base average and stealing three bases.

Manager John Russell likes Milledge's speed and ability to handle the bat while also adding some pop.

"This guy had a pretty nice year last year at age 22 in the big leagues," Russell said. "He's been there, he's done it, and he's made some nice adjustments. He gives you a pretty legitimate bat that can do some things at the top of your order."

Entering Friday's game, Milledge was a .261 hitter with 25 home runs and 113 RBIs in 260 games in the Major Leagues. He struggled early this season, however, hitting .167 in seven games this season with Washington. His last game for the Nationals was on April 13.

As for his adjustments since moving to the Pittsburgh organization, Milledge learned to trust his hands more. But another change was acclimating to Pirates' way of running things.

"It was a little tough, I'll be honest," Milledge said. "Just trying to get into the swing of how to do it here in Pitt. It's a lot of discipline down there. You can't drive to the games, have to [ride on] a bus and stuff like that. I had to really get used to a lot of that stuff. It's really paying dividends."

Russell said expectations of Milledge aren't any different from other players in terms of work ethic. Instead, all players are expected to play right, work hard and outwork the opposition. But Milledge did get a chance to get a sample of all that while in the Minors.

"I think he got a taste of it, you'll see it up here," Russell said. "We're not going to treat him any differently. He'll fall right into place. He's done some very good things at Triple-A. We're very excited to have him here."

Pitching matchup
PIT: RHP Virgil Vasquez (1-5, 6.21 ERA)
Vasquez was knocked out of his last start after only three innings. He allowed four runs on six hits and two walks. It was the second time in three starts that Vasquez was unable to pitch more than three innings. He has lost five straight and shown very little consistency with his command.

WSH: RHP Craig Stammen (3-5, 4.46 ERA)
Stammen had one of his worst outings of the season on Monday, giving up five runs in 4 2/3 innings against the Brewers. He ended up, however, with no decision, thanks to outfielder Josh Willingham, who hit two grand slams.

Bucs bits
Left-hander Phil Dumatrait pitched four innings and gave up five runs on nine hits in a rehab start with Double-A Altoona on Friday night. Four of the runs came in the first. Dumatrait has been on the 60-day disabled list since the start of the season following setbacks from arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder. ... Russell said newly acquired pitcher Kevin Hart will be in the Pirates' rotation. Russell will discuss with pitching coach Joe Kerrigan on how the rotation will go moving forward. Hart is 3-1 with a 2.60 ERA this season and was acquired from the Cubs along with two other players for pitchers John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny. ... Outfielder Jose Tabata has been promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis. He was hitting .303 with 25 RBIs in 61 games with Double-A Altoona.

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Up next
• Sunday: Pirates (Paul Maholm, 6-5, 4.70) vs. Nationals (Collin Balester, 1-1, 4.00), 1:35 p.m. ET
• Monday: Pirates (Charlie Morton, 2-3, 3.72) vs. Nationals (Garrett Mock, 0-4, 7.09), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Tuesday: Pirates (Zach Duke, 9-9, 3.26) vs. Diamondbacks (TBD), 7:05 p.m. ET

Wayne Staats is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.