NEW YORK (AP) -Rickey Henderson will be the newest coach on the New York Mets staff - when he reaches New York.
Henderson was traveling Thursday as the Mets announced his hiring and the dismissal of hitting coach Rick Down. It has not been decided whether Henderson or first-base coach Howard Johnson will replace Down.
``We don't know what his role will be yet,'' general manager Omar Minaya said. ``We have not defined who will be hitting coach.''
Johnson filled the hitting coach role in Thursday night's game against the Cincinnati Reds.
The NL East leaders made two other moves, promoting 22-year-old outfielder Lastings Milledge from the minors and designating 48-year-old Julio Franco for assignment. Franco, the oldest player in the majors turns 49 next month and has pledged to play until he's 50.
New York also signed infielder Marlon Anderson to a minor league contract. Anderson, who played in 123 games for the Mets two years ago, was released by the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 9.
In a way, the firing of Down and the release of Franco were related. As manager Willie Randolph's primary righty pinch-hitter, Franco has struggled all season, batting just .200 in 50 at-bats with one home run and eight RBIs. He was one of several Mets hitters who have not performed as expected at bat this season.
``The offensive approach the last few weeks was not what I feel it should be,'' Minaya said. ``I feel we should be doing better than we've done. It was the judgment of me and my staff that things were not going well.''
Going into the second half of the season, Mets had a team batting average of .268, sixth in the league. They were 10th in runs scored.
All-Star third baseman David Wright did not have a home run in the month of April. All-Star center fielder Carlos Beltran was hitting just .264. First baseman Carlos Delgado struggled through most of the first three months and reached the All-Star break batting just .242.
``Sometimes you've got to make changes and I felt this is the time for us to make the changes,'' Minaya said.
The GM said he huddled with his staff and manager Willie Randolph before hiring Henderson, who has worked in the organization as a special instructor for the last two years. ``It would be a risk to bring in somebody the players don't know,'' Minaya said.
``Rickey is a future Hall of Famer, He's looking forward to the challenge. We felt doing this move puts us in a better situation to win games in the second half.''
Randolph called the dismissal of Down ``an organization decision.'' The hitting coach had worked with Randolph in the Yankee organization .
``I brought Rick here,'' the manager said. ``He's my coach. He's my brother.''
Minaya said he believed Franco's 29-year professional career would continue. ``Julio feels he can play,'' the GM said.
Franco's professional career began in 1978. He has played all over the globe, continuing his career in Japan, Korea and Mexico after he seemed to reach the end of the line with Milwaukee in 1997. He came into this season with a career batting average of 299.
He was an important clubhouse and bench presence with the Mets and batted .273 in 95 games last season.
Milledge has been the franchise's top outfield prospect and batted .241 in 56 games with New York last season. But his progress was delayed this season when he sprained his foot and spent six weeks on the disabled list. He batted . 333 in 11 games at Triple-A New Orleans and .435 in five games at Double-A Binghamton.
``It's good to come here and be back where you feel you're supposed to be,'' he said.

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