Josh Willingham could be shut down with shoulder injury

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It’s increasingly likely that Josh Willingham has already taken his final at-bat for the Twins this year.

Willingham is currently shut down due to a sprained ligament in his left shoulder suffered when he slammed into the left field fence Monday while trying to catch a home run. John Shipley of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that he still felt a “pinch” in his shoulder while trying swing a bat earlier today. With that in mind, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire told Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that Willingham could miss the final six games of the season.

“We’re going to be very careful about this,” Gardenhire said. “I have to go by what he says, and right now he can’t play. And I don’t plan on putting him out there until he can do it. If anybody could play, he would play, but he doesn’t feel it right now.”

The Twins are out of the race, so there’s little reason to risk putting him back out there if he’s not 100 percent. Best to just start his offseason early.

Willingham is currently enjoying the best season of his career, batting .260/.366/.524 with 35 home runs, 110 RBI and an .890 OPS in 145 games played. The 33-year-old is owed $7 million in each of the next two seasons.

Jharel Cotton to undergo Tommy John surgery

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Athletics right-hander Jharel Cotton will undergo Tommy John surgery, per an announcement on Saturday. Cotton initially experienced some elbow soreness during a Cactus League start earlier this week and was officially diagnosed with a strained ulnar collateral ligament and strained flexor muscle on Thursday. He’ll be out of commission until 2019 at the earliest.

This isn’t the first time Cotton has dealt with elbow issues. According to’s Jane Lee, he had screws inserted in his right elbow after sustaining a stress fracture in 2013 and suffered some minor elbow discomfort again last fall. Prior to his diagnosis, the 26-year-old was poised for his third run with the A’s in 2018. He pitched his first full season with the club in 2017, turning in a 5.58 ERA, 3.7 BB/9 and 7.3 SO/9 in 24 starts and 129 innings.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle adds that the team is open to adding pitching depth this spring, though they’ll wait to see if the price goes down on some free agents first. Barring that, right-handed long reliever Andrew Triggs could be tabbed to fill the fifth spot in the rotation.