Josh Willingham officially done for year, Nyjer Morgan returns
What the Nationals have known for a few days became official this morning: Josh Willingham was placed on the disabled list and will have season-ending surgery to repair the meniscus in his left knee next week. The Nationals replaced him by re-instating Nyjer Morgan from the 15-day disabled list, his right hip soreness (which never really bothered Morgan much) now gone.
Losing Willingham deals a significant blow to the Nationals lineup. They not only lose his production, which before his nagging knee issue worsened was at an elite level for National League left fielders. They also lose his ability to protect Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman in the lineup.
"It's tough to fill the lineup out without him in there," Manager Jim Riggleman said. "It gives you one less experienced guy that the opposing manager has got to worry about a little bit."
Willingham's absence will lead to one noticeable change. Adam Dunn has the day off today, Riggleman's attempt to rest him as the Nationals play 16 games without an off day. On an everyday basis, Dunn will typically bat third and Zimmerman will bat fourth, a change from their customary spots.
"You don't want Zimmerman to beat you," Riggleman said. "You can protect Zim, but then again it's hard to protect Adam. It gets hard to protect both of them."
In the outfield, the Nationals will use Nyjer Morgan in center field, Michael Morse in right and, in a new twist, Roger Bernadina in left. Riggleman wants to see Bernadina played left field because, "I've been told that's always been his best position," Riggleman said. The person telling him that may want to consider Bernadina played six games in left field during his eight seasons in the minor leagues.
Before he went on the disabled list, Morgan had started to show flashes of recapturing his form from last season. In the first 18 games after the all-star break, Morgan hit .308 with a .361 on-base percentage while stealing nine bases and being caught only once. He objected to being placed on the disabled list, but he's happy he's back. "Just want to pick up where I left off," Morgan said.
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