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Slumping Josh Willingham, playing with a sore knee, gets a day off

Manager Jim Riggleman gave a day off to Josh Willingham, who is mired in a slump and, Riggleman insists, adversely affected by a lingering knee issue.

Willingham "is a little banged up," Riggleman said. "His knee is barking a little bit. He's really a gamer, a tough guy. He's played on some soreness for quite a while. Just an aggravation that he's played through. I'm sure he'll play through it through the rest of the year. It's really hard not to respect him and be proud of him. He's played through it without complaint."

Willingham has not undergone any testing on the knee, such as an MRI exam, but "it's something we've been aware for a long time. Physically, I think today is one that he could really use."

For his part, Willingham said he feels fine and has been miffed at his recent downswing at the plate. "I don't know," Willingham said. "There's not really anything on video I'm seeing. I'm just not getting many hits."

Regardless of the reason, Willingham has tailed off from his torrid first half of the season. Willingham, 0 for his last 11 with three strikeouts and a walk, has not hit a home run since July 2, a span of 104 at-bats. Since the all-star break, Willingham is hitting .192 with a .525 OPS.

At the all-star break, Willingham was a candidate to the make the National League squad and was enjoying, by far, a career-best season. His slump since then, though, has leveled out of his numbers to his career norms. Willingham is hitting .262 with a .384 on-base percentage, a .446 slugging percentage and 23.9 at-bats per home run. His career averages before this season: .264, .362, .478 and 21.3.

"He's really kind of on pace for the years he's had in the past," Riggleman said. "He's done a fine job. He's a real pro. But they're making some pitches on them."

With Willingham out of the lineup, Riggleman swapped Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman in the batting order. He feels comfortable with Willingham protecting Dunn in the lineup, but with Michael Morse batting fifth Riggleman wanted Zimmerman backing Dunn.

"Guys like Josh who have power, you never know what the day is going to be when they come out of their little slump," Riggleman said. "When they come out, they usually come out with a long ball or two. We don't want to have him out of their real long. We'll have him right back in there tomorrow."

By Adam Kilgore  |  August 11, 2010; 6:34 PM ET
Categories:  Josh Willingham  
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