Willingham (back) could rejoin Marlins early next week

SEATTLE -- Florida left fielder Josh Willingham, sidelined since late April with a bad back, could rejoin the Marlins early next week.

Willingham is on a rehabilitation assignment with Double-A Carolina. He had played in four games with the Mudcats entering Wednesday night and had two hits and two RBIs against Chattanooga on Tuesday.

Florida manager Fredi Gonzalez said if needed the team could try to rush Willingham back this weekend and join the team in Oakland, but the likelihood is he will be recalled when the team opens a nine-game homestand next Tuesday against Tampa Bay. That homestand starts a stretch of 20 straight games for the Marlins before the All-Star break.

Willingham went on the disabled list May 2, retroactive to April 28 with a strained lower back. Before going on the DL, Willingham was hitting .341 with six homers in 25 games. Willingham, who was also hampered by back trouble last season, had to undergo a treatment of back strengthening before resuming baseball activities.

Veteran Luis Gonzalez has played mostly in left since Willingham's injury and was hitting .274 entering Wednesday's series finale in Seattle.