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Nationals outfielder Josh Willingham likely done for year

Aug 17, 2010, 6:30 PM EDT

According to his agent, Josh Willingham will undergo surgery to repair cartilage in his left knee next week and miss the rest of the season.
Manager Jim Riggleman said before Tuesday’s game that Willingham could be available to pinch-hit tonight, suggesting that he might yet see a little action prior to undergoing surgery, but it sounds as though the slugger has made his final start in left field. Willingham has been fighting knee pain since before the All-Star break.
If he fails to get another at-bat, Willingham would end the season with a .268/.389/.459 line, 16 homers and 56 RBI in 370 at-bats. He came in at .281/.411/.502 during the first half, but it seemed that the knee problem wore on him as the season progressed.
Willingham was viewed as a trade candidate before the deadline passed. He’s making $4.6 million in his second of three arbitration seasons. The injury might pay off a bit for the Nationals, since he could have received a raise to about $8 million had he come through with 25 homers and 90 RBI this season. Now he’ll probably have to settle for something like $6.5 million-$7 million next year. Because of his injury history and lack of defensive value, he doesn’t seem like much of a candidate for a long-term deal.
With Willingham sidelined, the Nats could start giving Kevin Mench the occasional start in left field. It also means that Justin Maxwell could stick around rather than get sent back to Triple-A after Nyjer Morgan comes off the DL.

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