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Josh Willingham likely done for the season

With an injury to the meniscus in his left knee worsening rather than improving, Josh Willingham's season -- the best of his career before the onset of knee pain -- is likely over.

"It's almost a certainty he's going to have season-ending surgery next week," said Matt Sosnick, Willingham's agent. "They want him to clean it up so he can come in fresh for the season next year."

The Nationals will likely wait until Thursday, when center field Nyjer Morgan will return from the disabled list, to place Willingham on the disabled list. Manager Jim Riggleman said Willingham may be available to pinch-hit tonight, but it appears Willingham is not taking batting practice with the Nationals.

Willingham's knee began to ache before the all-star break, at which point his production started to plummet. Though Willingham maintained his knee did not bother him at the plate, his stats show a clear correlation.

On July 4, Willingham was hitting .282 with a .413 on-base percentage, a .513 slugging percentage and 15 home runs in 263 at-bats. Since, Willingham has hit .232 with .325 on-base, .327 slugging and one homer in 107 at-bats.

Over the past couple days, the pain became untenable for Willingham. About 30 minutes after Sunday's game - when Willingham went 2 for 4 with his first home run in 112 at-bats - Willingham told Riggleman his knee was aching. He flew home to spend time with his family on the off day and his knee still throbbed when he got off the plane.

Willingham had already undergone an MRI exam this year. By having the surgery soon, Willingham will likely have six-to-eight weeks of rehab. It would end his 2010 season but allow him to be fully healthy for next year.

Going into this offseason, the Nationals still control Willingham's rights for a final season of arbitration before Willingham becomes eligible for free agency. Willingham wants to stay with the Nationals for several seasons.

"I think he's pretty upbeat. Everyone knows, when he's healthy and playing well, he's great," Sosnick said. "He still has a strong desire to sign a long-term deal with Washington if they are interested."

By Adam Kilgore  |  August 17, 2010; 5:51 PM ET
 
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Comments

Better to get it taken care of now. This way, with a 6-8 week rehab, he could be ready for the playoffs. Maybe not the division series, but certainly in time for the NLCS, should they make it that far.

Posted by: Ted_Striker | August 17, 2010 6:08 PM | Report abuse

That's some solid thinking, there, Striker. Very solid thinking...

Posted by: baltova1 | August 17, 2010 6:16 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of modest sluggers,

Bobby Thomson, RIP, author of the most dramatic homerun in baseball history.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/18/sports/baseball/18thomson.html?_r=1

Posted by: paulkp | August 17, 2010 6:21 PM | Report abuse

Question: Wouldn't rushing Burgess here be better than playing the three M's? That has to be the weakest lineup of the year. There are still 45+ games to play this year and this is going to get real ugly real fast if they don't find some real outfielders. Maybe first pick next year isn't out of the question after all.

Posted by: natbiscuits | August 17, 2010 6:27 PM | Report abuse

Bobby Thompson and Ralph Branca gave us one of the greatest baseball moments.

Posted by: joemktg1 | August 17, 2010 6:31 PM | Report abuse

biscuits: "going to get ugly"?? going to??

although that running catch of the foul popup down the line the other night was brilliant...

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | August 17, 2010 6:36 PM | Report abuse

Here's hoping the Hammer heals quickly.

Posted by: Juan-John1 | August 17, 2010 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Everyone wants to stay here. That is a good sign.

Posted by: MKadyman | August 17, 2010 6:53 PM | Report abuse

Goessling's reporting that Nyjer was scratched from tonight's Harrisburg lineup.

Posted by: joemktg1 | August 17, 2010 6:54 PM | Report abuse

Give him credit for making the injury known instead of pulling an Austin Kearns/Tony Pena and hurting the club. Just get him healthy and use his absence to evaluate the OF talent.

Posted by: Natmeister | August 17, 2010 6:58 PM | Report abuse

Can Morse start consistently now ? Riggs, what do you think ?

Posted by: JT2009 | August 17, 2010 6:58 PM | Report abuse

Get this guy his surgery and get him a contract extension. We need a healthy Hammer in the lineup next year -- and for several more after that.

Posted by: js_edit | August 17, 2010 7:16 PM | Report abuse

It was very evident on Sunday that he wasn't at full speed. And glad he had a HAMMER game. But getting surgery done now and a good rehab is definitely the right move. Not sure who is down on the farm to have a chance to shine, nor that Nyjer is a long term answer. The Nats are still a work in progress - but improvement has occurred, and is occuring! (And yes, that back to the field running catch down third base line by Zimmerman on Sunday was a gem!)

Posted by: humbleandfree | August 17, 2010 8:44 PM | Report abuse

Wikkingham was already done. He never hits in the second half of the season anyway. never has, never will. Now, we can see if Morse continues to blow his last chance to be a starter.

Posted by: lp_lodestar | August 17, 2010 9:12 PM | Report abuse

I loved me some Tony Plush last year, but I'm thinking the 0-for-5 thing isn't really worth it. Looks like we'll still have a pretty good draft spot next year.

Posted by: Section406 | August 17, 2010 10:01 PM | Report abuse

Too bad. This guy's a player. Someone the Nats needed. Funny though when I read some of the comments on this site about him. I can see why it took over 30 years to get baseball back here. No-nothing fans.

Posted by: Dog11 | August 17, 2010 10:47 PM | Report abuse

As someone else with a bad knee, Take care Josh. Do what you gotta do NOW so you can play next year!!!

I'll miss yelling, ITS HAMMER TIME! After you hit a homer, "you cant touch this"!

Posted by: CALSGR8 | August 17, 2010 11:52 PM | Report abuse

As someone else with a bad knee, Take care Josh. Do what you gotta do NOW so you can play next year!!!

I'll miss yelling, ITS HAMMER TIME! After you hit a homer, "you cant touch this"!

Posted by: CALSGR8 | August 17, 2010 11:53 PM | Report abuse

Did he try putting ice on it? Ice and some tussin and he should be fine.

Posted by: octobertea | August 18, 2010 2:04 AM | Report abuse

I think it's the right decision (and the Hammer's one of my faves). Feel better, and will look forward to see you in the lineup next year!

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | August 18, 2010 6:51 AM | Report abuse

I think it's the right decision (and the Hammer's one of my faves). Feel better, and will look forward to see you in the lineup next year!

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | August 18, 2010 6:52 AM | Report abuse

This is two years in a row that Willingham has disappeared down the stretch. Last year, ‘The Hammer’ was 15 for 108 (.139) in his last 30 games. The Nats outfield is a serious concern. Bernadina may be the best of the lot. Morgan has been a real disappointment this year, Maxwell has shown time after time that he can't hit Major League pitching, Morse is struggling at the plate and suspect in the field, Harris appears to be at the end of the road, and Mench is barely roster-worthy. Maybe Rizzo can pick up a decent free agent in the off-season.

Posted by: gibson0 | August 18, 2010 7:47 AM | Report abuse

Did he try putting ice on it? Ice and some tussin and he should be fine.

Posted by: octobertea | August 18, 2010 2:04 AM

Some people think ice is the answer. Other guys think heat is the way to go. But I have discovered the secret, Henry. Hot ice! You heat up the ice cubes! It's the best of both worlds!

Posted by: SpashCity | August 18, 2010 8:46 AM | Report abuse

Another reason to ignore the Nationals once football starts...

Posted by: tcostant | August 18, 2010 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Another reason to ignore the Nationals once football starts...
Posted by: tcostant | August 18, 2010 9:34 AM
---------------------
Good riddance. Nats don't need or want people like you anyway.

Posted by: shanks1 | August 18, 2010 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Can we activate Bryce Harper for tonites game? Give me $9.9 million and I'll play all three outfield positions at the same time.

Posted by: garyolney | August 18, 2010 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Dunn will be gone after the 2010 season and Willingham will be traded mid 2011 or gone after the 2011 season. Dunn and Willingham are DH players, the Nats don't play in the American League.

Posted by: 4U2Know | August 18, 2010 10:51 AM | Report abuse

Gibson0 wrote:
... Maybe Rizzo can pick up a decent [outfield] free agent in the off-season.

How about Jason Werth?

Posted by: luv2bikva | August 18, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Gibson0 wrote:
... Maybe Rizzo can pick up a decent [outfield] free agent in the off-season.

How about Jason Werth?

Posted by: luv2bikva | August 18, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Hammer is a class act and I wish him a speedy recovery. See ya next year, Josh!

Posted by: Section416akatheAlps | August 18, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

What about the idea that if Josh Willingham is lost for the season, the Nationals claim Manny Ramirez off waivers from the Dodgers. I know its a big investment, but he's the a proven hitter, would draw a crowd, may be interested in playing in the Nation's capital, and wouldn't have to be the center of attractionl. See Dunn, Zimmerman, Harper.

Posted by: garyolney | August 18, 2010 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Dog11 wrote: "I can see why it took over 30 years to get baseball back here. No-nothing fans."

Ridiculous. This is a chicken-and-egg, cart-before-the-horse argument. If I and other more casual fans who never played the game on an organized level, or even total newbies around here know "nothing" about baseball comparitively speaking, it's probably at least partly because we grew up without a hometown MLB team.

But this is in no way a reason why DC went so long without one. It ain't a prerequisite, for any sport, that a teamless area must somehow have a fanbase with the knowledge of a veteran city in that sport before it makes a good candidate to get a franchise...

Posted by: evanescent_panoply | August 18, 2010 4:37 PM | Report abuse

In his golden years, before moving to Georgia, I had the honor and pleasure of knowing a kind older gentleman who worked out on a treadmill next to me at a local gym in our town. Bobby Thompson was humble, gracious and witty and was loved by all of us at the gym. He was generous in spirit and will be missed. When my daughter's third grade class was reading a novel (one chapter at a time) about Jackie Robinson, Thompson's contemporary, he agreed to go to the school and speak to all those little children about teamwork, steadfastness, and focusing on your studies. That was almost 9 years ago. The kids at Mt. Horeb School in Warren, NJ loved him and we all do too! RIP Mr Thompson.

Posted by: msmonica05 | August 18, 2010 10:42 PM | Report abuse

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