Playing time helps Willingham heat up
Nationals outfielder has four homers in May
SAN FRANCISCO -- Outfielder Josh Willingham was in the starting lineup for the third consecutive game Monday against the San Francisco Giants, a sign that his hot bat has not gone unnoticed by manager Manny Acta.
Willingham, who hit .254 with 15 homers and 51 RBIs for the Marlins last season, got off to a slow start this year but has shown signs of life in the early part of May. Willingham drilled two homers in Sunday's loss to the Diamondbacks and entered the game hitting .313 (5-for-16) with three homers, a double and four RBIs in the month of May. He added another homer in the second inning Monday, a solo shot off Randy Johnson.
According to Willingham, the difference has been more at-bats and not a change in his approach at the plate.
"I'd have to say that it's mainly got to do with the fact that I'm getting a chance to play more," Willingham said. "Early on, I had to adjust to playing a few games here and few games there. That takes some time to get used to."
Willingham really struggled in the month of April, hitting just .143 with one homer while striking out 10 times in 15 games. Last season, the left fielder got off to a torrid start in April, hitting .345 with five homers and 14 RBIs in 24 games with the Marlins.
According Acta, Willingham has done a great job adjusting to his role on the team and is starting to get results at the plate.
"It's been very tough for him to adjust to his new role. He's used to playing on more regular basis, but now he's getting used to it and he's getting into a rhythm," Acta said. "It's a lot to ask of him to just come in here and become a pinch-hitter when he was used to getting so many more at-bats with the Marlins."
Acta said he will continue to get Austin Kearns at-bats while trying to keep Willingham hot at the plate.
"I don't think that the other guys are struggling. I have to get Kearns and Willie Harris in there, too," Acta said. "Kearns has got a good on-base percentage and those guys are swinging the bat well. I can't put three guys in left field."
Willingham said he's not going to concern himself with his playing time or lack thereof; instead, he said he's going to continue to work hard and be ready to produce when his name is in the lineup.
Jayson Addcox is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.