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02/17/10 11:56 PM ET

Nats, Villone agree on Minor League deal

Left-handed reliever gets an invitation to Spring Training

The Nationals agreed to terms with reliever Ron Villone on a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training on Wednesday.

Villone coming back to the Nationals is not a surprise, because he is one of manager Jim Riggleman's favorite players. Riggleman often mentioned last season that Villone was a leader by example, because he wanted to pitch on a regular basis and watched the game from the dugout after completing his work on the mound. Villone had a 4.25 ERA in 63 games for Washington last season.

"Ronnie sets a great example," Riggleman said in August. "He takes the ball more than anybody. He is 39 years old, but he is willing to pitch every day, which I think says a lot. It indicates to some other pitchers that this guy has been around a long time."

Villone, 40, is 61-65 with 92 holds and a 4.73 ERA in 717 games during 15 seasons with 12 teams, including the Yankees and Cardinals.

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