Josh Willingham went on the disabled list Tuesday with a torn meniscus and a bone bruise in his knee. The problem really began, methinks, when he tried to steal second (on his own) in April and executed an awkward slide.
A bum knee goes a long way toward explaining his statistical downturn this season. Apparently he had hopes of returning soon after the 15 days, but after Tuesday's game it was announced that he will have the knee scoped..
It's now unlikely that there will be an trade market for Willingham this month. Not that one should have expected much of one anyway. He's a 34-year-old low-average slugger with limited defensive value (if any); I don't think he'd have fetched a prime pitching prospect even if he were duplicating last season's numbers.
Aaron Hicks was reinstated from the disabled list to fill Willingham's roster spot. Terry Ryan had been saying that Hicks had to produce on his rehab assignment to return to the majors, and Hicks hadn't. But here he is again anyway.
Hicks started Tuesday's game (and had a couple of hits), with Clete Thomas taking a seat. It bears watching how Ron Gardenhire handles this situation. Thomas has been more productive than Hicks, but Hicks is a more significant piece of the puzzle and needs to play. If Gardy would rather play Thomas, Hicks should be returned to the minors.
One silver lining to Willingham's injury is that it should make more playing time available for Chris Parmelee. Oswaldo Arcia has (as he should) one corner outfield job; like Hicks, there is no point to having Arcia in the majors if he's going to sit. Unlike Hicks, Arcia is producing. Center field belongs to Hicks and Thomas, of course. Parmelee came into Tuesday's game with unimpressive numbers on the season (.234/.318/.400) but he'd hit three homers in his last eight games -- eight games with a slash line of .320/.433/.800. (And then he went hitless Tuesday -- not just hitless, but with three strikeouts in his four at-bats.)
It's been a odd, frustrating season for Parmelee. He's been better defensively in right than anticipated, and he's pretty consistently going deep into at-bats. Both are pluses. But at least until the past week or so, he's come up empty too often in those at-bats. I believe that process leads to results, and based on that theory, I still have hopes for Parmelee. I don't want to see the Twins give up on him too soon.