- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 19, 2009

Nationals, Willingham avoid arbitration

VIERA, Fla. — Josh Willingham avoided arbitration by a few hours Wednesday, agreeing to a $2.95 million contract with the Nationals just before a scheduled hearing was due to take place in Arizona.

The outfielder and the club settled on a one-year salary that was almost exactly at the midpoint between the two offers submitted for arbitration. Willingham had been asking for $3.5 million; Washington had offered $2.55 million.

Acquired in November from the Marlins along with left-hander Scott Olsen, Willingham was arbitration eligible for the first time and stood to earn a considerable raise from his 2008 salary of $405,000 no matter the outcome.

The two sides had already flown to Phoenix and were prepared to present their cases to a three-judge panel Wednesday, but Nationals general manager Jim Bowden and Willingham’s agent, Matt Sosnick, worked out a deal on their own before the hearing.

Washington has one remaining unresolved arbitration case — with Ryan Zimmerman. The club has been negotiating both a one-year and a multiyear contract offers with the third baseman, but the sides are scheduled for a hearing in Phoenix on Friday if they can’t complete a deal before then.

Big bunter

Adam Dunn’s first batting practice with the Nationals drew plenty of onlookers, including one fan who yelled for the massive slugger to “hit one onto [Interstate] 95!”

Boy, was that guy disappointed. Dunn spent the session working on his short game, sending line-drive singles to all parts of the field and even dropping some impressive bunts down the third-base line.

Surely the 6-foot-6 outfielder/first baseman who has mashed at least 40 homers each of the last five seasons doesn’t intend to make that a key part of his game, does he?

“Yeah,” he said. “You laugh, but yeah. There’s obviously certain situations where they’re going to give me a little bunt single with the [infield playing a] shift. If the situation dictates it, why not?”

—Mark Zuckerman

TEMPERATURE CHECK

ESMAILYN GONZALEZ [down]

Who’s smiling now?

THE REDS ARMY [up]

Dunn, Kearns, Pena … is this 2003 in Cincinnati?

QUIET CAMP [down]

Not here in Viera this spring

BY THE NUMBERS

$1.4 million signing bonus the Nationals gave Esmailyn Gonzalez (aka Carlos Alvarez Daniel Lugo) in 2006.

THURSDAY’S WEATHER

Washington: Windy, 43 degrees

Viera: P.M. thunderstorms, 79 degrees

THREE-DAY SCHEDULE

Thursday: First full-squad workout, 9 a.m.

Friday: Full-squad workout, 9 a.m.

Saturday: Full-squad workout, 9 a.m.

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