Hartman: Willingham's bat is coming around

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 5, 2014 - 8:31 AM

The Twins slugger, slowed by injuries this season and last, has been displaying his power.

Twins left fielder Josh Willingham finally is starting to look like the slugger the Twins got as a free agent in 2012, after struggling because of injuries for most of last season and already missing 40 games this year because of a wrist injury.

It is pretty apparent that when he is in the lineup and healthy, the Twins can compete with anyone as they showed on their recent road trip to New York against the Yankees and to Milwaukee.

Willingham was asked last week before leaving town how difficult it was to miss such a big chunk of time at the start of this season.

“How tough has it been for me this year? It has been a little frustrating,” he said.

When asked if there was any other season that was as difficult, he simply said, “Yeah, last year.”

When the Twins signed Willingham to a three-year, $21 million contract in 2011, there was a big belief the righthanded slugger would be able to replace Michael Cuddyer’s bat in the lineup and also pull a number of home runs into the shorter left-field bleachers at Target Field.

His first year with the club in 2012 proved that out when Willingham hit .260 and led the team in home runs (35), RBI (110), slugging percentage (.524) and on-base-plus-slugging percentage (.890).

His 35 homers were the13th-highest single-season total in team history.

But last year, Willingham really struggled because of knee injuries. He managed to play 111 games, but he never looked like himself, hitting only .208 with 14 home runs and 48 RBI in 389 at-bats.

Then this season began, and Willingham played in only six games before breaking a bone in his wrist after being hit by a pitch.

But now the slugger is looking as if he’s back to that 2012 form. Willingham went 2-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored in a 6-4 victory over Milwaukee on Wednesday night and extended his hitting streak to eight games. He is hitting .440 with four homers, 11 RBI and a .575 on-base percentage during that streak.

Following the Twins’ 6-4 victory over the Brewers on Tuesday, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire told the media that the team hopes Willingham’s injuries are behind him.

“Our concern was that he was swinging good when he started the season,” Gardenhire said. “You never know after you break a bone how it is going to come back. He’s come back, he’s on the baseball and I still think his legs are underneath him. He doesn’t have the knee problems and that has allowed him to do what he needs to do to get the bat head out.”

Twins saw potential

Willingham spent his 2011 season in Oakland. That year he faced the Twins seven times and hit .320 with three home runs and eight RBI, which helped convince General Manager Terry Ryan to bring him to Minnesota.

When Willingham signed, he said he knew why the Twins brought him here.

“I knew I was looked upon to bring some power and some thump to that lineup,” he said in 2011. “I think I’m at my best, offensively, when I’m going deep into some counts and working some walks and seeing a lot of pitches.”

The Twins saw Willingham reach that potential in 2012, and now it looks like he’s found it again in 2014.

Busy summer at U

Summer school starts at Minnesota on Monday, and the Gophers football team expects everybody to be in school and working out. As for injured players, coach Jerry Kill reported recently that everybody should be ready to go in the fall.

“The only one, and he’s making a run at things, is [sophomore linebacker] Cody Poock, the young man who transferred in,” said Kill. “He had a [torn] ACL during the spring, and he’s already doing things that nobody thought he would do. He’s on a mission. Whether he’s going to be ready or not — we may have him in time for the Big Ten season — but you know other than that, we’re getting pretty much everybody back.

“This is a critical time. There are a lot of them going through rehab, but I think we’ll be in pretty good shape, just according to how things go.”

Kill said redshirt junior center Jon Christenson, who missed most of last season after suffering a serious leg injury, has done really well in his rehab. “I think he’s going to be able to start with us Aug. 1,” Kill said.

Jottings

• Vikings coach Mike Zimmer on whether he can tell if his players are buying into his system and coaching style: “I don’t worry about that. I don’t worry about if they are buying in. My job is to coach them hard and try to get them to be the best players they can be. You’d have to ask them if they are buying in, really. My job is to coach them.”

• Tyus Jones, the Apple Valley point guard headed for Duke, will be taking part in the USA Basketball Under-18 team training camp from June 17-24 in Colorado Springs. That team will be led by Florida coach Billy Donovan. Former Cooper standout Rashad Vaughn, who is attending UNLV, also will be at the tryouts.

• Bronson Dovich, the Chaska offensive tackle who committed to Kill and the Gophers recently, told GopherHole.com he’s happy to have signed with the Gophers because now he can just focus on playing his senior season. “Before I had an offer, I was really trying to check out a few places,” he said. “Minnesota wasn’t showing too much interest, but after the Rivals camp they started to show me more interest and offered me. I knew that was the place for me. When I heard they were getting interested in me, I knew that this was the place that I wanted to be.”

• Joe Mauer showed how quickly he can turn around his batting average, going 5-for-12 with two doubles over the past three games heading into Wednesday night and taking his average from .267 to .276. He went 0-for-4 Wednesday, dropping the average to .271.

• A year ago the Twins’ farm club at Class AAA Rochester was weak on pitching, but it is a different story this year. Since May 12, the Rochester starting rotation is 12-5 with an outstanding 2.13 ERA. One of the starters, Trevor May, was named International League Pitcher of the Week after going 2-0 in two starts without allowing an earned run.

• William Leaf, an outstanding golfer from Winona, is transferring to Minnesota from SIU-Edwardsville and will be eligible this fall.

• Former Gopher Donald Snelten is 3-0 with 0.71 ERA in 11 games for the San Francisco Giants’ Class A affiliate in Augusta, Ga. Snelten has 17 strikeouts in 12 ⅔ innings pitched.

• Former Gopher Zach Budish has six goals and four assists in 21 playoff games for the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL, who are playing the Alaska Aces in the Kelly Cup finals. … Josh Birkholz, another one-time Gopher, is also on the team and has three goals and four assists in 21 games.

 

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40, 8:40 and 9:20 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Detroit 6:00 PM
Washington
Atlanta 6:30 PM
Miami
Toronto 6:30 PM
New York
Memphis 7:00 PM
Minnesota
Brooklyn 7:30 PM
Dallas
Milwaukee 8:00 PM
Utah
San Antonio 8:00 PM
Phoenix
Buffalo 2 1st Prd 12:42
Florida 0
Detroit 1 1st Prd 12:38
Nashville 0
Carolina 4:00 PM
NY Islanders
New Jersey 4:00 PM
Columbus
Arizona 4:30 PM
Boston
Toronto 6:00 PM
Montreal
NY Rangers 7:00 PM
Philadelphia
Minnesota 9:00 PM
Colorado
St. Louis 9:00 PM
Edmonton
Ottawa 9:00 PM
San Jose
Kennesaw St 75 FINAL
Lipscomb 94
Navy 57 FINAL
Loyola-Maryland 47
Bucknell 71 FINAL
American Univ 69
NC State 63 FINAL
Boston College 79
East Carolina 71 FINAL
UCF 66
Georgia Tech 63 FINAL
Clemson 70
Lehigh 55 FINAL
Colgate 61
Louisville 81 FINAL
Florida State 59
Missouri 44 FINAL
Georgia 68
Army 64 FINAL
Lafayette 74
Michigan 56 FINAL
Maryland 66
Georgetown 70 FINAL
St Johns 81
Rhode Island 59 FINAL
La Salle 56
Western Carolina 67 FINAL
Citadel 54
Nebraska Omaha 73 1st OT 0:12
IUPUI 73
Maine 56 FINAL
New Hampshire 65
Samford 80 FINAL
Va Military 69
Presbyterian 53 FINAL
Winthrop 80
Utah State 41 2nd Half 12:56
Air Force 29
Vermont 48 2nd Half 15:57
Albany 41
UMBC 30 2nd Half 17:56
Binghamton 33
Indiana State 33 2nd Half 13:57
Bradley 29
Butler 36 2nd Half 13:06
DePaul 38
Illinois State 35 2nd Half 16:36
Evansville 32
Wright State 27 2nd Half 13:58
Ill-Chicago 32
Fla Gulf Coast 33 2nd Half 14:26
Jacksonville 45
Ole Miss 29 2nd Half 15:24
LSU 31
North Carolina 36 2nd Half 18:46
Miami-Florida 30
Wagner 37 2nd Half 14:31
Mount St Marys 45
TCU 44 2nd Half 14:52
Oklahoma 40
Delaware 40 2nd Half 13:38
Towson 39
Cincinnati 43 2nd Half 12:34
Tulane 25
Dayton 41 2nd Half 13:35
VA Commonwealth 36
Northern Iowa 33 2nd Half 15:23
Wichita State 51
Drexel 48 2nd Half 12:13
William & Mary 33
Oakland 40 2nd Half 15:31
Green Bay 53
Villanova 44 2nd Half 14:53
Xavier 48
Campbell 24 2nd Half 15:52
Longwood 41
Sarah Lawrence 23 1st Half 3:29
NJIT 29
Middle Tennessee 7 1st Half 15:50
UAB 6
UNC-Asheville 7 1st Half 15:43
Liberty 7
Southern Utah 9 1st Half 13:26
North Dakota 6
Utah Valley U 2:05 PM
Chicago State
ULM 2:30 PM
Appalachian St
Bowling Green 2:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Long Island 2:30 PM
Sacred Heart
West Virginia 3:00 PM
Baylor
Holy Cross 3:00 PM
Boston Univ
MD-Eastern Shore 3:00 PM
Delaware State
Wofford 3:00 PM
Furman
Montana State 3:00 PM
Idaho
Hofstra 3:00 PM
James Madison
Iowa State 3:00 PM
Kansas State
Arkansas 3:00 PM
Kentucky
Missouri State 3:00 PM
Loyola-Chicago
Fordham 3:00 PM
Massachusetts
Nicholls 3:00 PM
McNeese State
East Tenn St 3:00 PM
Mercer
Coppin State 3:00 PM
Morgan State
San Diego 3:00 PM
Portland
Gardner-Webb 3:00 PM
Radford
St Francis-PA 3:00 PM
Robert Morris
Duquesne 3:00 PM
St Bonaventure
Creighton 3:00 PM
Seton Hall
Oklahoma State 3:00 PM
Texas Tech
Alabama 3:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Virginia Tech 3:00 PM
Virginia
Bethune-Cookman 3:00 PM
NC Central
St Francis-NY 3:00 PM
Bryant
Drake 3:05 PM
Southern Ill
High Point 3:30 PM
Char Southern
Central Conn St 3:30 PM
Fair-Dickinson
Eastern Mich 3:30 PM
Western Mich
Texas 4:00 PM
Kansas
Chattanooga 4:00 PM
UNC Greensboro
SE Louisiana 4:00 PM
Central Arkansas
South Dakota St 4:00 PM
South Dakota
Montana 4:05 PM
Eastern Wash
Georgia State 4:15 PM
Troy
Old Dominion 4:30 PM
North Texas
Arkansas State 4:30 PM
Texas State
Texas Southern 5:00 PM
Alabama State
Tennessee St 5:00 PM
Belmont
Princeton 5:00 PM
Brown
Dartmouth 5:00 PM
Cornell
Tennessee 5:00 PM
Florida
Jacksonville St 5:00 PM
Morehead State
San Jose St 5:00 PM
Nevada
Florida A&M 5:00 PM
NC A&T
Iowa 5:00 PM
Penn State
Loyola Marymount 5:00 PM
Pepperdine
Miss State 5:00 PM
South Carolina
Savannah State 5:00 PM
SC State
Miss Valley St 5:30 PM
Jackson State
Alcorn State 5:30 PM
Southern U
Prairie View 6:00 PM
Alabama A&M
Harvard 6:00 PM
Columbia
George Washington 6:00 PM
Davidson
Syracuse 6:00 PM
Duke
Tenn Tech 6:00 PM
Eastern Ky
UNC-Wilmington 6:00 PM
Elon
Stony Brook 6:00 PM
Hartford
Hampton 6:00 PM
Howard
Northwestern 6:00 PM
Illinois
Western Ill 6:00 PM
IUPU-Ft Wayne
Buffalo 6:00 PM
Kent State
Incarnate Word 6:00 PM
Lamar
Cal State Fullerton 6:00 PM
Long Beach State
TX-San Antonio 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Fla Atlantic 6:00 PM
Marshall
Richmond 6:00 PM
Saint Josephs
George Mason 6:00 PM
Saint Louis
Austin Peay 6:00 PM
SE Missouri St
Murray State 6:00 PM
UT Martin
Ball State 6:00 PM
Toledo
Penn 6:00 PM
Yale
Milwaukee 6:00 PM
Youngstown St
Stetson 6:00 PM
North Florida
USC Upstate 6:00 PM
Northern Ky
Grand Canyon 6:05 PM
UMKC
Abilene Christian 6:15 PM
New Orleans
Northeastern 7:00 PM
Coll of Charleston
Tulsa 7:00 PM
Memphis
Wyoming 7:00 PM
UNLV
Central Mich 7:00 PM
Northern Ill
Denver 7:00 PM
Oral Roberts
Charlotte 7:00 PM
Rice
Boise State 7:00 PM
San Diego St
St Marys-CA 7:00 PM
Santa Clara
Texas-El Paso 7:00 PM
Southern Miss
Sam Houston St 7:00 PM
TX A&M-CC
New Mexico St 7:00 PM
TX-Pan American
FIU 7:00 PM
Western Ky
Stephen F Austin 7:00 PM
Houston Baptist
Ga Southern 7:15 PM
Louisiana
Ark-Little Rock 7:15 PM
Texas-Arlington
Grambling St 7:30 PM
Ark-Pine Bluff
Auburn 7:30 PM
Texas A&M
Arizona 8:00 PM
Utah
Northern Ariz 8:00 PM
Northern Colorado
UC Davis 9:00 PM
Cal Poly
New Mexico 9:00 PM
Fresno State
BYU 9:00 PM
Gonzaga
Pacific 9:00 PM
San Francisco
Idaho State 9:00 PM
Weber State
Sacramento St 9:05 PM
Portland State
UC Riverside 9:30 PM
CS-Northridge
Washington 9:30 PM
USC
CS-Bakersfield 9:30 PM
Seattle
UC Irvine 10:59 PM
UC Santa Barbara
Michigan 60 FINAL
Illinois 72
Lipscomb 57 FINAL
Kennesaw St 75
North Florida 45 FINAL
Stetson 77
Samford 65 FINAL
Mercer 70
Liberty 64 FINAL
Campbell 57
North Texas 48 FINAL
Old Dominion 70
St Francis-NY 62 FINAL
Bryant 52
St Francis-PA 58 FINAL
Robert Morris 73
Long Island 71 FINAL
Sacred Heart 78
Sam Houston St 52 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 60
Kent State 59 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 66
ULM 61 FINAL
Appalachian St 80
Boston U 62 FINAL
Holy Cross 76
Nicholls 73 FINAL
McNeese State 68
Akron 38 2nd Half 12:41
Buffalo 54
Ball State 33 2nd Half 13:57
Western Mich 36
MD-Eastern Shore 42 2nd Half
Delaware State 42
Northern Ill 39 2nd Half 9:19
Eastern Michigan 47
Bowling Green 32 2nd Half 12:36
Ohio U 45
Central Michigan 36 2nd Half 13:15
Toledo 41
Coppin State 21 2nd Half
Morgan State 38
Bethune-Cookman 47 2nd Half 10:16
NC Central 19
Central Conn St 64 2nd Half 6:41
Fairleigh Dickinson 52
Memphis 12 2nd Half 11:07
(1) Connecticut 71
Georgia Tech 31 2nd Half 15:57
Wake Forest 36
East Carolina 36 2nd Half 15:50
Temple 39
Marist 29 2nd Half 15:07
Rider 38
Michigan State 38 2nd Half 12:53
Purdue 37
Fairfield 26 1st Half 4:54
Manhattan 20
Niagara 34 2nd Half 15:45
Iona 43
East Tenn St 32 2nd Half 7:46
(18) Chattanooga 50
Furman 48 2nd Half 12:11
Wofford 29
Longwood 42 2nd Half 6:58
Charleston Southern 41
UNC-Asheville 60 2nd Half 13:58
Coastal Carolina 40
Northern Ky 57 2nd Half 11:31
USC Upstate 42
Winthrop 36 2nd Half 12:55
Presbyterian 35
Western Ill 31 1st Half 0:01
South Dakota 34
Detroit 44 2nd Half
Valparaiso 28
Cleveland State 8 1st Half 15:25
Milwaukee 5
Lafayette 1 1st Half 19:07
Army 0
Arkansas State 4 1st Half 13:45
Texas State 8
Georgia State 3 1st Half 14:37
Troy 12
IUPUI 0 1st Half 16:59
South Dakota St 6
Tennessee St 8 1st Half 15:28
Belmont 1
Eastern Illinois 11 1st Half 11:11
SIU-Edwardsville 10
Jacksonville St 14 1st Half 9:28
Morehead St 17
Kansas State 4 1st Half 14:04
TCU 14
Cincinnati 7 1st Half 11:48
SMU 8
SE Louisiana 0 1st Half 18:54
Central Arkansas 2
Denver 2 1st Half 14:15
Nebraska Omaha 6
Tulane 10 1st Half 14:58
Tulsa 8
IUPU-Ft Wayne 2:00 PM
Oral Roberts
Air Force 3:00 PM
Utah State
San Diego State 3:00 PM
Boise State
Fresno State 3:00 PM
New Mexico
Florida A&M 3:00 PM
NC A&T
Gonzaga 3:00 PM
BYU
South Florida 3:00 PM
UCF
UCLA 3:00 PM
Washington
(3) Baylor 3:00 PM
Iowa State
Miss Valley St 3:00 PM
Jackson State
Tenn Tech 3:00 PM
Eastern Kentucky
UMKC 3:00 PM
Grand Canyon
Seattle 3:00 PM
CS-Bakersfield
Texas Southern 3:00 PM
Alabama State
Santa Clara 3:00 PM
St Marys-CA
UNLV 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Savannah State 3:00 PM
SC State
Alcorn State 3:00 PM
Southern U
Bucknell 3:00 PM
American Univ
Oakland 3:00 PM
Illinois-Chicago
Eastern Washington 3:00 PM
Montana
Idaho 3:00 PM
Montana State
Weber State 3:00 PM
Idaho State
Radford 3:00 PM
High Point
Green Bay 3:30 PM
Youngstown St
Austin Peay 3:30 PM
SE Missouri St
Wagner 3:30 PM
Mount St Marys
Portland 4:00 PM
San Diego
Nevada 4:00 PM
San Jose St
Stephen F Austin 4:00 PM
Houston Baptist
Incarnate Word 4:00 PM
Lamar
Abilene Christian 4:00 PM
New Orleans
Pepperdine 4:00 PM
Loyola Marymount
San Francisco 4:00 PM
Pacific
Prairie View 4:00 PM
Alabama A&M
Hampton 4:00 PM
Howard
Chicago State 4:00 PM
Utah Valley U
Murray State 4:00 PM
UT Martin
Cal Poly 4:00 PM
Cal-Irvine
Marshall 4:00 PM
Florida Atlantic
Portland State 4:00 PM
Sacramento St
UC Santa Barbara 4:00 PM
UC Davis
Western Ky 5:00 PM
FIU
UAB 5:00 PM
Middle Tennessee
Georgia Southern 5:00 PM
Louisiana
Grambling 5:00 PM
Ark-Pine Bluff
Ark-Little Rock 5:00 PM
TX-Arlington
Cornell 5:00 PM
Dartmouth
Columbia 5:00 PM
Harvard
Brown 5:00 PM
(14) Princeton
USC 5:00 PM
Washington St
(24) California 5:00 PM
(7) Oregon State
Yale 6:00 PM
Penn
Loyola-Maryland 6:00 PM
Navy
Jacksonville 6:00 PM
(21) Fla Gulf Coast
Long Beach St 6:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
Rice 6:00 PM
Charlotte
Colgate 6:30 PM
Lehigh
CS-Northridge 7:00 PM
UC-Riverside
Kansas 7:00 PM
Oklahoma
Oklahoma St 7:00 PM
Texas Tech
TX-Pan American 8:00 PM
New Mexico St
North Dakota 8:00 PM
Southern Utah
Northern Colorado 9:00 PM
Northern Ariz
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which Twins player are you most interested in during spring training?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close