Nats' Milledge to don No. 85

Updated: February 19, 2009, 9:04 PM ET
Associated Press

VIERA, Fla. -- There's a new Ocho Cinco in pro sports: Washington Nationals outfielder Lastings Milledge is switching to No. 85 after relinquishing his career-long No. 44 to new teammate Adam Dunn.

Milledge, who wore No. 44 with the Mets and Nationals, chose his new number because he was born in 1985.

"That number's so ugly," Dunn said, "I might just give this one back."

It's quite rare for players in the majors to have numbers that high, although Manny Ramirez did wear No. 99 after he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers last summer.

Nationals manager Manny Acta stuck a piece of white tape on Milledge's locker in the Space Coast Stadium clubhouse and wrote on it in black ink: "Ocho Cinco 85" -- a reference to Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson, who changed his first name to a rough Spanish translation of his uniform number.

Both Dunn and Milledge said the latter offered to make the switch. Dunn -- who wore No. 44 with his previous club, the Cincinnati Reds -- originally was given No. 32 by the Nationals and donned that jersey number for his introductory news conference after signing as a free agent. The Nationals even gave Dunn's 2-year-old son a tiny No. 32 jersey that day.

So why did Milledge -- who agreed to a $452,000 contract for 2009 on Thursday -- offer his jersey number to Dunn?

"He hit 240 [homers] the last six years," Milledge said. "How ... am I going to wear that and let him wear another number?"

While both players said Milledge didn't ask for anything in return, Dunn -- when pressed -- said: "I tipped him."

Notes
The Nationals agreed to terms with four players on 2009 contracts: Milledge, INFs Anderson Hernandez and Alberto Gonzalez, and LHP Mike O'Connor. The only players still without deals in place for this season are 3B Ryan Zimmerman, whose arbitration hearing is scheduled for Friday; and RHP Jason Bergmann. ... Dunn picked up the tab for the clubhouse spread after Thursday's first official full-squad workout: turkey, chicken, meat loaf, macaroni-and-cheese, yams, etc. ... SS Ian Desmond, who was at Double-A Harrisburg in 2008, will travel to Baltimore on Monday to visit a doctor about a lingering problem in his left wrist.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press