Nationals outfielder Josh Willingham likely done for year

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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.

Martin Maldonado and Willson Contreras say they’re willing to pay fines rather than follow new mound visit rule

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On Monday, Major League Baseball announced some changes aimed at improving the game’s pace of play, something that has been a pet cause for commissioner Rob Manfred. Among the changes was a limit on mound visits whether from managers and coaches, the catcher, or other defenders. Each team will have six non-pitching change mound visits per game and one additional visit each inning in extra innings. Craig wrote more in depth on the changes here if you happened to miss it.

Angels catcher Martin Maldonado says he is going to do what’s necessary to stay on the same page with his pitchers. Via Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register, Maldonado said, “If the game is on the line, I’m going to go out there. If we’re at six [visits], and it’s going to be the seventh, I’m going to go out there, even if I have to pay a fine. I’m there for the pitchers.”

Cubs catcher Willson Contreras said as much on Tuesday. Per Josh Frydman of WGN News, Contreras said, “What about if you have a tight game and you have to go out there? They can’t say anything about that, that’s my team and we just care about wins. If they’re going to fine me about number seven mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”

Exhibition games haven’t even started yet, but two notable backstops — the lesser-known Maldonado won a Gold Glove last year — are clearly not happy with the rule change. As Craig alluded to in his article yesterday, arguments between catchers and umpires (and, subsequently, managers and umpires) are probably going to become more frequent, which would likely end up nullifying any pace of play improvements.