Left-hander Tom Milone, one of four players traded by the Nationals for Gio Gonzalez, is excited about his opportunity to pitch for the Oakland A's, but also looks back with admiration to the team that believed in him that first season.
Milone, a 10th-round selection by the Nationals in 2008, pitched for the University of Southern California, and was Washington's 2010 minor league Pitcher of the Year.
After another spectacular year in the minors in 2011, Milone got his shot to pitch for the Nationals in September. Milone went 12-6 with a 3.22 ERA for Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs. In 24 starts and 148 1/3 innings, Milone struck out 155 and walked just 16 batters.
With the Nationals, Milone made five starts, going 1-0 with a 3.81 ERA,15 strikeouts and two walks. He also hit a dramatic home run in his first major league at-bat.
With so many memories with the Nationals, Milone said it will be an adjustment to leave the team that drafted and signed him out of USC.
"It is kind of bittersweet," Milone said. "I have only been with the Nationals and I made a lot of friends.I knew everybody there. But, I am pumped that I don't have to go all the way to the east coast now."
Milone said the trade is made easier to take because he will be going to Oakland with Derek Norris, A.J. Cole and Brad Peacock. He also will be reunited with a pair of former teammates at USC, pitcher Ryan Cook and shortstop Grant Green.
"it is no hard feelings, definitely," Milone said. "I felt really comfortable (with the Nationals). I know that it is a business. This stuff kind of happens all the time. I am not expecting to stay on the same team my whole career. They gave me a great opportunity, especially this year. Bringing me up in September and being a part of the starting rotation. It is time for me to move on and start something new somewhere else."
He said the experience at the big league level will help his confidence as he embarks on spring training with the Athletics.
"Honestly, sometimes I don't know if I remember the whole thing. I don't remember hitting it or running the bases. It kind of was a blur to me, like a dream. That is definitely something I will never forget for the rest of my life," he said.
Milone has heard that he will like pitching in Oakland because O.co stadium is so huge and offers plenty of room for his outfielders to make plays behind him.
"I have heard that from a lot of people," Milone said. "A lot of my friends are telling me how much I will enjoy pitching there because it is so big and you have a lot of foul territory."
"They are trying to develop young guys, that is what (general manager) Billy (Beane) likes to do. I think it is a good opportunity for me. It is different, but good. I am excited to get started."