The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Whether DH or in left field, Willingham poised for bounce-back season with Twins

  • Print

FORT MYERS, Fla. - Josh Willingham insists he is willing and able to serve as designated hitter for the Minnesota Twins, if that's what he's asked to do.

But the veteran slugger much prefers playing left field rather to fidgeting on the bench in between at-bats. Especially now that his balky left knee has fully healed since arthroscopic surgery last July.

"I like playing left field. I think you're more in the flow of the game," Willingham said. "DH, you have a lot of downtime where you're still in the game but you're not out there playing. I'd rather be in the game."

The 35-year-old's career statistics support that claim.

His combined on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS) last season was nearly 200 points higher (.773) in the 71 games he played in left field versus the 35 games he served as DH (.577).

Willingham has a .706 career OPS in 453 plate appearances (105 games) as the DH. That's well below his overall career OPS of .830.

"DHing is great when you're hitting well," he said. "You get a hit, come in, sit down, watch the game a little bit and go get another hit. It's easier to take the flow of the game when you're playing the field than when you're DHing. You stay in the game. You feel like you have to stay stretched out when you're DHing. When you're playing, you don't have to do that."

Depending on the composition of the Twins outfield, Willingham might be asked to DH more this season. It's possible the Twins will keep the loser of a centre-field battle between Aaron Hicks and Alex Presley in a bench role.

Veteran corner outfielder Jason Kubel, who returned to his original organization this off-season, is a strong contender to make the club on a non-roster deal. Young slugger Oswaldo Arcia is the front-runner to be the starting right fielder.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire is noncommittal on Willingham's role for now.

"I talk to him all the time. He feels better, feels like he's more in the game when he's playing in the outfield, but we're going to have to mix in a few things here and there. He might have to DH a little bit," Gardenhire said.

Regardless of position, Willingham appears poised for a bounce-back season after hitting just .208 with 14 home runs and 48 RBIs, all career lows.

"He's going to enjoy baseball a lot more, I know that," Gardenhire said. "He was miserable last year. He had the knees. He had the problems, got into a rut. You're going to see a happier guy. The guy loves to play baseball, loves to hit."

Entering the final season of a three-year, $21 million contract, Willingham also made it clear upon reporting to camp that he is open to signing an extension.

"I do love playing in Minnesota," he said. "From the organization to the weather to my friends and teammates, all that stuff is a plus for me. I would love to stay here for another year or so" beyond 2014.

The Twins' interest in extending Willingham could depend on whether he can improve his production in the DH role.

NOTES: Rookie C Josmil Pinto sat out full-squad drills for the second time in as many days with a stiff lower back. His status is day to day, but he remains hopeful of being ready in time for Friday's Grapefruit League opener up the road against Boston. ... Veteran reliever Matt Guerrier, coming off August surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon, hopes to face hitters Thursday. He has circled March 9 as a potential exhibition debut.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Blake Wheeler talks about past season

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Bright sunflowers lift their heads toward the south east skies in a  large sunflower field on Hwy 206 and #1 Thursday Standup photo. July 31,  2012 (Ruth Bonneville/Winnipeg Free Press)
  • Susan and Gary Harrisonwalk their dog Emma on a peaceful foggy morning in Assiniboine Park – Standup photo– November 27, 2011   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos


What Western Conference teams will emerge from the first round of the NHL playoffs?

View Results

Ads by Google