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Huntington rolls the dice

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The Pirates today rolled the dice on Lastings Milledge, triggering a four-player trade to bring the enigmatic outfielder to Pittsburgh.

The Pirates got Milledge and right-handed reliever Joel Hanrahan from the Washington Nationals in exchange for outfielder Nyjer Morgan and reliever Sean Burnett.

Hanrahan is expected to join the Pirates bullpen in a day or two. Milledge is on an injury rehab assigment in the Gulf Coast League and will be sent to Triple-A Indianapolis in a week to 10 days. Milledge will play left field for the Pirates.

“I’m a little shocked, but it’s business,” Morgan said. “I’m just very, very happy that I opened up somebody else’s eyes and somebody wants me. I look at it as a positive thing, not a negative.”

Earlier today, the Pirates also dealt Eric Hinske to the New York Yankees for catcher/outfielder Eric Fryer and righty Casey Erickson.

Outfielder Garrett Jones was promoted from Indianapolis. The Pirates will make another call-up tomorrow to fill out their 25-man roster.

Milledge, 24, was the New York Mets’ first-round draft pick (12th overall) in 2003. He was traded to Washington in November 2007.

“Coming out of the draft, there were many who thought he could be an All-Star,” Huntington said. “In his first full season in the big leagues at (age) 23 he had a very nice year, 24 doubles, 14 home runs, stole some bases. We think there are some things we can help him with defensively and there are some things we can help him with at the plate.”

Milledge played in just 260 games over four seasons in the majors and has a career .261 batting average with 25 home runs. This season, he hit .167 in seven games — and also blew off a team meeting and took lazy routes to fly balls — and was demoted to Triple-A.

Milledge also wore out his welcome in New York, drawing criticism from teammates for showboating after homers and high-fiving fans.

“There is a good person there,” Huntington said. “We can help him fulfill his potential. He can be challenging at times, but there are a lot of players in baseball (like that).

“With maturity, with some guidance, with some direction, we might have ourselves a pretty good player here. It was a chance we were willing to take.”

Milledge broke his right ring finger May 11 in a game against Triple-A Indianapolis and last week began a rehab assignment.

Hanrahan, 27, was drafted in the second round in 2002 by the Los Angeles Dodgers and came up as a starter. After he signed with the Nationals as a minor league free agent, Hanrahan was converted to a closer.

This season, Hanrahan has struggled — going 0-3 with a 7.71 ERA and five saves. Initially, the Pirates will use him as a middle reliever, with the goal of eventually moving him into a late-inning role.

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