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Milledge likely done for the season

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When Pirates right fielder Lastings Milledge did not start any games last week against the Mets, the New York media rumbled that he’d ducked his former team.

Earlier today, Pirates manager John Russell revealed the reason for Milledge’s absence: Milledge has a strained muscle in his left side and likely is done for the season.

Milledge was injured Tuesday during an extra round of batting practice. He did not hear a snap or pop, but left the cage in significant pain.

“We’re hoping he can play before the end of the year, but it’s pretty sore,” Russell said. “We’ll see if we can get him ready before the season’s over.”

Milledge is pessimistic about his chances.

“It’s going to be tricky,” he said. “It’s going to be real tough. I don’t think I can generate enough force (swinging a bat) to play. I don’t know how to play 80 percent. I’m going to continue to help guys in meetings and stuff like that.”

In the Pirates’ media guide, Milledge lists New York as his favorite road city. But some folks there assumed the worst when he made just one pinch-hit appearance in the four-game series.

“They were ragging on Milledge for not playing, saying he was hiding,” Russell said. “He was unable to play. I didn’t want to say anything, but I didn’t want him to get bad press, either.”

Milledge has not played since last Sunday in Cincinnati. He’s hit safely in 19 of his past 24 games, including 17 of his last 19 starts.

The Mets drafted Milledge in the first round in 2003. He played parts of two seasons in New York, but hit just .257 and frequently clashed with management and his teammates.

Milledge was traded to Washington in November 2007. The Pirates acquired him in June 2009.

Mets beat writers often approach Milledge and try to get him to talk about his days in New York. Milledge always refuses.

“I wasn’t avoiding them,” he said. “I just don’t want about being a Met. I want to talk about what’s going on now. I want to move forward.”

In fact, Milledge had quite a bit to say today about his present status and possible future — or lack thereof — with the Pirates. Much more about that in Sunday’s Trib …

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