Twins’ Josh Willingham to undergo knee surgery; out 4 to 6 weeks

MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Twins were hoping to be without left fielder Josh Willingham for only 15 days. Instead, Willingham opted to have arthroscopic surgery on his left knee and is expected to miss four to six weeks.

Willingham was placed on the 15-day disabled list before Tuesday’s game after he was diagnosed with a medial meniscus tear and a bone bruise in his left knee. It’s an injury that Willingham has been dealing with for a while but has tried to play through.

He was a late scratch from Monday’s game against the Yankees when he felt discomfort in his knee just minutes before the game. After Tuesday’s 7-3 loss to the New York Yankees, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was informed that Willingham opted to have his knee scoped.

“I have a bone bruise, which (the doctor) said would take a minimum two weeks, probably more like three or four to heal,” Willingham said. “The cartilage tear that was there before had a little bit of change in it and had gotten maybe a little bigger. So we both put our heads together and decided what was best. We thought that having the procedure is only going to take, hopefully, four, maximum six weeks to get better from, anyway. Then you kind of kill two birds with one stone.”

Willingham will have the surgery Wednesday in Minneapolis, performed by Dr. John Steubs. It’s the third arthroscopic procedure Willingham has had on his knees during his 10-year career. He returned in about five weeks following one of the surgeries and a little more than five weeks after the second one.

After putting up career numbers a year ago, the 34-year-old Willingham’s production has taken a dip in 2013. In 70 games, he’s batting just .224 with 10 home runs and 37 RBI. Last season he hit a career-high 35 home runs and drove in 110 runs (also a career high).

Signed before last year to a three-year, $21 million deal, Willingham was a possible trade candidate for the Twins if they indeed become sellers by the end of the month. His recent knee injury certainly puts a damper on that possibility, as he won’t be ready to play until after the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

“We knew at some point, whether it be the end of the year, that I was going to have my knee cleaned up,” Willingham said. “What made sense this time was the time frame that the bone bruise was going to take to heal. I was going to miss at least probably three weeks minimum for that just healing. That’s three weeks of recovery time. I just kind of made the decision that way. . . . It was a hard decision.”

Without Willingham fully healthy, the Twins’ bench has been shortened in recent days. So they opted to put him on the DL and activate outfielder Aaron Hicks, who has not played for the Twins since June 9 as he has been on the DL with a hamstring strain. Hicks recently made a rehab assignment with Triple-A Rochester, playing six games for the Red Wings and batting .190 (4 for 21) with a double and two RBI.

In 55 games with Minnesota this year, the 23-year-old Hicks batted just .179 with 19 RBI and six home runs. He made the Twins’ 25-man roster this spring as the starting center fielder despite having never played a game at Triple-A.

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