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09/22/08 12:00 AM ET

Milledge already hitting his stride

Young slugger a nominee for Hank Aaron Award

WASHINGTON -- When it comes to the bat, outfielder Lastings Milledge has been consistent for the Nationals.

Since the All-Star break, Milledge is hitting .299 with seven home runs and 25 RBIs. For the season, Milledge has an outside chance to go 20-20 for the first time in his career.

Milledge already has 23 stolen bases and is six home runs shy of 20 home runs. He would likely have already reached that milestone if he didn't go on the disabled list in late June.

The Nationals are hoping that he can be a middle-of-the-order bat in the future. Manager Manny Acta said that Milledge can bat anywhere between second and sixth in the batting order.

Acta is not surprised by what Milledge is achieving with the bat this season. The skipper saw glimpses of what Milledge could do when both were with the Mets in '06.

"Nothing surprises me by what he does," Acta said in August. "He is very talented. I think the people in D.C. and the Major Leagues are going to enjoy this guy for a long time."

Milledge is 23 years old and already a candidate for the Hank Aaron award.

This coveted honor is awarded annually to the best overall offensive performer in each league, with each club having a nominee. Fans can vote vote here from Monday, Sept. 22 until Sunday, Oct. 12 to select the winner in each league.

The winners will be announced prior to Game 4 of the World Series on Sunday, Oct. 26. Last year's winners were Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez and Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder.

Originally introduced in '99 to honor the 25th anniversary of Hank Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's all-time home run record, the Hank Aaron Award was the first major award to be introduced in 30 years.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.