KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Josh Willingham, the final Nationals player to report to camp, arrived in Viera yesterday and is at the complex today working out with guys who didn't make the trip to either Kissimmee or Jupiter.
Willingham, whose wife Ginger gave birth to new son Ryder last week, won't be thrown into games right away, but manager Jim Riggleman said he'll probably work his way into the lineup by Monday or Tuesday.
The Nats are counting on big things from the 31-year-old left fielder, who hit .260 with 24 homers and 61 RBI in 133 games last season. One of Riggleman's biggest challenges will be deciding how much time to give Willingham off to keep him fresh throughout the year. Some felt his late-season slump was a product of overuse, though Willingham told his manager last month he felt great all season and never had any recurrence of the back troubles that had plagued him in previous years.
"It's really an interesting dilemma," Riggleman said. "Because I like having him in the lineup."
Willingham will likely bat fifth again, behind Adam Dunn and in front of Elijah Dukes, though Riggleman said that could change over the course of the season. Regardless of where he hits in the lineup, the "Hammer" figures to play a prominent role on this club.
"He's just a solid pro, just a mistake-free player," Riggleman said. "He's not a spectacular guy, flying around and all that. But you look up at the end of the day and he's usually done something to help you in the ballgame. And you add to that, at any time he's liable to pop one. He's just a real solid, dependable guy to have in there."