After fielding four straight questions about the worst offensive season of his career, Josh Willingham playfully punctuated his final backward-gazing answer with a news flash for the assembled media. "I think obviously (lack of) confidence had a little bit to do with it," the Twins left fielder said Wednesday. "I just couldn't get going. But anyway, it's a new year: Two thousand and 14." Having celebrated his 35th birthday Wednesday, the oldest member of the Twins' 40-man roster was in a jovial mood upon reporting to camp two days ahead of Friday's mandatory deadline. Willingham said he didn't change his offseason workout regimen after arthroscopic surgery on his left knee trimmed his 2013 season by five weeks. He said he felt good in general and was looking forward to a "clean slate," clearly hopeful of turning back the clock to the 35-homer level he reached for the first time in 2012. "I don't feel any older," he said. "I have to do a little more warming up maybe, a little more maintenance before and after. I used to show up, put my pants on and play. I can't do that anymore." Just three of the 64 players invited to Twins' big-league camp this spring were born in the 1970s: reliever Matt Guerrier (35), infielder Jason Bartlett (34) and Willingham. While Guerrier and Bartlett must scramble to make the roster in their return engagements, Willingham is being counted on as the cleanup hitter and primary left fielder. He's never been too keen on designated hitter duties, as his career numbers in that difficult role suggest. As long as he's healthy, though, he can still play, which is something Willingham confirmed he hopes to do beyond his current contract. This is the final season of the three-year, $21 million contract that brought Willingham to the Twins. Echoing the sentiments his agent, Matt Sosnick, gave to the Pioneer Press on Monday, Willingham made it clear he would be 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)." Sosnick said Willingham would like to play through 2017 if his body holds up and he remains productive and pain-free.
Twins: After last summer, Josh Willingham eager for clean slate
St. Paul Pioneer Press | Feb 20