Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
A knee injury may prematurely end Josh Willingham's season.
Plenty of teams — contending ones — would happily take a 3-4-5 of Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham. Each of those three had a legitimate case for All-Star consideration back in July, and though none of them was selected, few would have argued had any of them made the roster.
So the latest development with regard to Willingham's ailing left knee — Adam Kilgore of the Post reported yesterday the 31-year-old is likely going to have season-ending surgery next week to repair meniscus damage — certainly doesn't bode well for the remainder of 2010 in NatsTown.
If Willingham's knee has regressed to the point he's hurting the team — and his .225 batting average, .326 slugging percentage and lack of speed on the bases and in the field since the All-Star break certainly suggest he is — surgery right now is the right call. Get it taken care of. Give him as much time as possible to recover and rehab in advance of 2011.
But Willingham's absence from the Nationals' lineup will be noticeable. All of a sudden, that potent 3-4-5 is down to only Zimmerman and Dunn, both of whom have benefited from the protection the "Hammer" offers behind them. Without Willingham, who bats fifth the rest of the season? Roger Bernadina? Michael Morse? Ivan Rodriguez? The options aren't pretty.
A possible end to Willingham's season also leaves the Nats' outfield configuration looking mighty different. Jim Riggleman will have some decisions to make, especially if Nyjer Morgan is activated off the 15-day DL tonight as expected.
Assuming Morgan returns to his spot in center field, how do the corners shake out? Riggleman noted last week that Bernadina's best position is probably left field. Maybe he ends up taking Willingham's spot, with Morse in right field. Or might the manager try a complete shake-up and move Morgan to left, with Bernadina in center?
If today's roster move is a straight DL-for-DL transaction (Morgan-for-Willingham) the Nationals still will have three backup outfielders on their roster: Justin Maxwell, Willie Harris and Kevin Mench. How does those three figure into the mix? Are they strictly bench players and spot-starters, or do any of them deserve regular time in the lineup?
Like I said, plenty of decisions to make. So, as we wait for any official word of roster moves, I ask you the following questions...
1. Assuming Willingham is out for the season, who should now bat fifth?
2. What's your new outfield configuration?