Olsen, Willingham happy with first game
Lefty goes two innings vs. Marlins; outfielder homers
VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals outfielder Josh Willingham and left-hander Scott Olsen played in their first game of the spring in an 11-2 loss to the Marlins on Monday afternoon, and both were pleased to get the first one out of the way.
Like Matt Chico on Sunday, Olsen acknowledged he was nervous before the game. The last time Olsen pitched in a big league setting was July 10, 2009. He missed the second half of the season because of a small tear in his left labrum.
Olsen was able to get the nervousness out of his system, but he didn't have a great outing like Chico, who pitched two shutout innings after he missed most of the past two years because of elbow reconstruction. Olsen pitched two innings and gave up three runs on seven hits. The biggest blow of the game came in the first, when he gave up a three-run homer to Jorge Cantu. Olsen's fastball was clocked in the high 80s.
After he was finished on the mound, Olsen said it was the best his arm felt all spring, but he acknowledged that he still needed to build arm strength.
"It was obviously a little rough in the first inning with the Marlins flaring the ball all over the place, but we were down in the zone for the most part," Olsen said. "I had a good angle on the fastball, so this is a positive and a step in the right direction for me.
"I was a little anxious and a little nervous about how I was going to feel. Everything felt good from the first time I got out there and started playing catch today. The arm loosened up pretty well over the last month or so. We are still building up strength. Everything is progressing."
Willingham missed all of the Spring Training workouts because he was with his ailing son, Ryder, who was born on Feb. 23. Ryder had some difficulty breathing because of fluid in his lungs, but he took a turn for the better four days later.
It was Feb. 27 when Willingham and his wife, Ginger, were able to hold and feed him. Willingham was happy to report that Ryder was released from the hospital Monday.
Relived that his son is OK, Willingham was the designated hitter against the Marlins on Monday, hitting a home run in his first at-bat against Ricky Nolasco. Willingham went 1-for-3 in the contest.
"I really didn't know what to think, because I haven't seen live pitching since Oct. 4," Willingham said. "I felt good and got a good one to hit."
Willingham is expected to play left field against the Tigers on Tuesday.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.