All the big talk about veteran Shawn Green having to earn his spot as the opening day starter in the Mets right field is nothing more than that -- big talk. Even though youngster Lastings Milledge's spring numbers easily surpass Green's, manager Willie Randolph has made it clear that Green is his man.
Randolph was quoted in the Daily News as saying Milledge has a shot at making the team only if enough at-bats can be found for him, but then and only then. That would suggest Green will be the starter, though Green conceivably could lose time to Milledge if the upstart, 30-30 prospect makes the club as a backup.
So far this spring Milledge, 21, is hitting .361 with a .561 slugging percentage compared to Green's .179 average and .385 slugging. But Green, 34, recently hit a pair of homers and hitting coach Rick Down has suggested that Green's power decline is behind him.
Though Green hit a career high 49 homers in 2001, his totals fell to 19, 28, 22 and 15 over the past four years. But Down implied to the New York Post that the decline is not so much due to age-related loss of strength but rather various injuries from which Green has now recovered. Green said he feels strong now that he has modified his swing, and does not rule out a return to the 30-40 homer plateau.
"...He has the power than very few people have in this room," Down said in an interview from the Mets clubhouse in Port St. Lucie, Fla.