Don't expect Josh Willingham to root for A's in playoffs

Don't expect Josh Willingham to root for A's in playoffs
September 19, 2013, 5:30 pm
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In 2011 with the A's, Josh Willingham hit .246 with 29 home runs and 98 RBI. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

OAKLAND -- Josh Willingham had a career year with the A's in 2011, clubbing 26 home runs and collecting 98 RBI before he left for what he thought would be greener pastures in Minnesota.

But the Twins are working on their third consecutive season near the bottom of the AL Central stack, the A's are closing in on their second consecutive division title, and Willingham is back at the Coliseum for Minnesota's four-game set this weekend as Oakland's magic number shrinks.

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Already wrapping up the second season of his three-year, $21 million contract with the Twins, Willingham is clearly beyond his days in Green and Gold.

"I want to win with these guys," he said, gesturing to his Twins teammates around the clubhouse.

And don't expect the Alabama native to root for his old Oakland team once Minnesota's season ends.

"I'll be watching football," he said with a smile. "To be honest, I haven't paid all too much attention to (the A's), as far as watching them. But I've seen they're in the lead.

"Yeah, I mean, I'm happy for them, especially the ones I know."

Willingham said he is closest with Kurt Suzuki and Jemile Weeks, though he acknowledged the roster looks quite a bit different two years later.

Oakland enters the series with a magic number of five. Depending on how the Rangers fare against the Rays and Royals, Suzuki, Weeks and the A's could be celebrating another division title before Willingham's eyes.

But the 34-year old said there are no added emotions for him, playing against the team that made him the recipient of the Catfish Hunter Award in 2011, an honor bestowed upon former teammate Coco Crisp on Thursday.

[NEWS: Crisp voted Catfish Hunter Award winner]

"Just trying to play tonight," Willingham simplified. "Hopefully we can play a good game and win, and worry about tomorrow, tomorrow."

His frustration is understandable. After setting career highs with 35 home runs, 85 runs, 110 RBI and a .524 slugging percentage in his first season with the Twins last year, Willingham slumped in 2013. He hit a career-worst .212 with just 14 home runs and 48 RBI. But the Twins stood by him, declining to ship him this year despite significant interest from contenders.

With Willingham on board, the Twins still have a chance to throw a few curveballs into the AL playoff race; their final 11 games pit them against three teams with postseason expectations -- the A's, Tigers and Indians. Looking up at Detroit and Cleveland from a 23-game deficit, the fourth-place Twins have their sights set on spoiling.

"Yeah, we're playing teams that are in the hunt," Willingham said. "We want to play well and win. That's the goal."

The goal for the A's remains the same no matter what faces -- familiar or not -- occupy the visiting dugout: Get that magic number to zero.

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