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Willingham has cartilage damage

Aug 12, 2010, 9:13 PM EDT

Updated at 1:09 a.m.

Read the full, updated story with quotes on CSNwashington.com.

Josh Willingham has damaged cartilage in his left knee and possibly a meniscus tear, an injury that has been hampering the Nationals left fielder since early in the season but one he hopes to play through before potentially having surgery this winter.

Willingham was out of the Nats’ lineup tonight for the second straight day, but manager Jim Riggleman said the 31-year-old will start tomorrow night against the Diamondbacks. Willingham pushed to play tonight, but Riggleman said he preferred to err on the side of caution.

Riggleman did say Willingham was available to pinch-hit tonight — just as he did last night (he doubled in the bottom of the sixth, but Jason Marquis subsequently pinch-ran for him) — though the manager wanted to avoid using him and did leave him on the bench during a 5-0 loss to the Marlins.

After enjoying a strong first half in which he hit .281 with 15 homers, 46 RBI and a .411 on-base percentage, Willingham has tailed off considerably. Over his last 24 games, he’s batting .203 with no homers, eight RBI and a .289 on-base percentage.

Willingham believes he aggravated the injury during the Nationals’ last homestand when he slid awkwardly into second base. He said tests show some damage to cartilage in the knee which could be a meniscus tear, but he intends to continue playing and hopes to avoid surgery.

  1. David Lint - Aug 12, 2010 at 9:30 PM

    Eventually the Nationals will have a real training staff, right?How many times are we going to have to hear about players that have been playing hurt and the training staff not having a clue.

  2. Calm in Cali - Aug 12, 2010 at 9:41 PM

    Is the training staff to blame for every injury?Kind of harsh when most of the time the player wants nothing to do with them until the extremity is ready to fall off.

  3. Nate - Aug 12, 2010 at 9:44 PM

    Why so quick to put this one on the training staff? Josh has been noticably struggling since the All-Star break. Either he said something about his knee bothering him and everyone was ok with letting him play through it, or he didn't say anything. If he didn't say anything, what exactly is the training staff supposed to do?

  4. Anonymous - Aug 12, 2010 at 10:06 PM

    What I don't understand is the willingness to risk further injury bu playing out the rest of the season instead of having the surgery now and coming back strong next year. First off; he is playing poorly and not helping the team and more importantly: why take a risk when you are not contending for anything? Lastly; it's really tiresome when posters who really don't have enough information to make such comments keep criticizing :coaches, management, ownership, training staff, the concession stands and the weather man; just stop it already.

  5. natsfan1a - Aug 12, 2010 at 10:10 PM

    I'll give you the first five, Anon @ 6:60, but you can't take the weather man off the table. Throw us a bone here, would ya? ;-)Also, I'm totally bummed for the Hammer, who has become one of my fave Nats. Would miss having him in the lineup, but I also hope that he and the team will be smart about it and not risk making the injury even worse.

  6. Kevin Rusch, Section406 - Aug 12, 2010 at 10:14 PM

    I'm open to whether or not you blame the training staff for this. HOWEVER, do good teams have these problems? I don't know for sure, but you don't hear "Jeter's been slumping because he's been ashamed to bring up a knee injury." I don't know if it's the culture of the team, the training staff, managed care, or cheap owners. The result is that this team is LOSING PRODUCTIVITY because injuries aren't being diagnosed and addressed soon enough. Someone really needs to get to the bottom of this. Or else we'll never be any better than the Royals.-kevin

  7. Doc - Aug 12, 2010 at 11:15 PM

    @ Kevin Rusch, Section406: Amen brother! The big issue, as I have pointed out previously, is that the "LOSING PRODUCTIVITY FACTOR" is at the heart of this debate. Who is to blame, I have no idea. It is something, however, that somebody should get a grip on. The team culture that glorifies hiding injuries, belongs to baseball's past. In the long run, everybody loses, including us fans.

  8. Don Hammack - Aug 12, 2010 at 11:38 PM

    Meniscus tears aren't that big a problem. It should be solved easily with offseason surgery. There's not much risk of further damage from playing on it, I don't think.Basically, the meniscus is a disc-shaped piece of cartilage that cushions the place where tibia and femur come together.I'm not a doctor, but I slept in a Holiday Inn Express last night.

  9. Randy - Aug 12, 2010 at 11:42 PM

    Baloney. Plenty of teams have had injuries including the Phillies, Mets, Red Sox, Dodgers and others. Injuries are a part of any sport.

  10. Anonymous - Aug 13, 2010 at 3:39 AM

    Ouch tore my meniscus three years ago, no way I could run on it, so props to Josh for toughing it out.

  11. Anonymous - Aug 13, 2010 at 5:30 PM

    @ManassasHe could play with the injury as we have seen. However apparently he cannot be productive enough to make it worth playing. Get it fixed now. Playing at this point with nothing to prove makes no sense.

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