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Willingham Starting Over On A New Coast

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(Credit:Doug Benc/Getty Images)

(Credit:Doug Benc/Getty Images)

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PHOENIX (AP) — Josh Willingham had heard the rumors. After all, it’s difficult to keep anything a secret in Washington.

The Nationals were looking to deal the outfielder, and on Dec. 16, they found a team that was interested — the Oakland Athletics. The trade meant Willingham was switching coasts.

It is a new adventure for Willingham, who turned 32 on Thursday. After spending his entire career in the National League, he’s now in the American League.

“Looks like I’ll have to do more research, spend a lot more time in the video room, learning all the pitchers and players,” he said before Tuesday’s spring workout. “It’s been kind of crazy, trying to get used to the new players on my own team. I want to make sure I know everybody.”

Willingham has been projected as the starter in left field, where he has played most of his career. His presence would create a formidable trio with returning center fielder Coco Crisp and David DeJesus, who was acquired in a trade from Kansas City.

Swinging the bat is where the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Willingham is capable of having the most impact. Oakland manager Bob Geren has seen Willingham hit a few times early in camp and has studied him on video. He likes what he sees.

Willingham has a .265 career average with Florida and Washington. In his two seasons with the Nationals, he hit .260 and .265 with a combined 40 homers and 117 RBIs.

Geren envisions Willingham in the fifth or sixth spot in the order, perhaps in between new designated hitter Hideki Matsui and catcher Kurt Suzuki.

“(Willingham) has one of the better approaches I’ve seen for a right-handed hitter,” Geren said. “He stays on the inside of the ball and is not susceptible to breaking balls in. He doesn’t have a tendency to swing too much at outside pitches. He just has a lot of consistency.”

Willingham said his spring objective “is to work on all facets of my game, both defensively and offensively. You don’t really get paid to hit .300 during the spring, but I do want to be ready to hit when the season starts.”

NOTES: RH reliever Michael Wuertz has a sore shoulder and is not expected to throw again until Thursday, Geren said. … Despite being on the disabled list four times over the past two seasons with Arizona and Oakland, OF Conor Jackson can be an important piece of the puzzle, according to Geren. “He needs to keep his strength up, work on that swing,” Geren said . . . There was a lot of talk over the winter about the A’s trying to acquire a third baseman such as Edwin Encarnacion, Adrian Beltre or Chone Figgins, but incumbent Kevin Kouzmanoff managed to keep things in perspective. “I spoke to him (in the offseason) and his attitude is fantastic,” Geren said. “He knows there’s a business side to it. Whatever happened, he could say to himself, ‘I’m going to be a starting third baseman somewhere.’ He’s come in here in great shape.”

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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