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Willingham airs playing time issues

Willingham airs playing time issues

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MIAMI -- Nationals left fielder Josh Willingham had a pleasant meeting with acting general manager Mike Rizzo recently in Miami to talk about his status with the club.

Willingham expressed his unhappiness about being on the bench, while Rizzo, in turn, told Willingham how much the organization respects him as a player. Willingham did not play in the first two games against the Marlins, but was able to receive a start on Wednesday afternoon at Dolphin Stadium.

"I can't tell you what he told me, but we were honest with each other. We got everything out on the table," Willingham said. "I know where he stands, he knows where I stand. I wanted to hear from him and he wanted to hear from me.

"[The meeting was about] the whole situation, how he feels about me as a player, all that stuff. That's what the meeting was about. It was good. We'll go from there."

When then-general manager Jim Bowden traded for Willingham last November, the plan was for Willingham to be the everyday left fielder. But that changed when the team signed free agent Adam Dunn this past February. Bowden thought he could trade Nick Johnson and put Dunn at first base, but Johnson is still on the team. Rizzo declined to be interviewed for this story.

"If you ask me if I would rather be playing -- yeah. What am I going to do?" Willingham said. "I'm not going to sit there and pout about it or anything. I'm just going to get ready and help the team."

Willingham has proven that he is more than a bench player. During Spring Training, he led the team in RBIs with the 13. During his career, Willingham has proven to be a Nationals nemesis, hitting .328 with 13 home runs and 33 RBIs against them.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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