MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Twins placed slugger Josh Willingham on the 15-day disabled list with a torn meniscus and bone bruise in his left knee on Tuesday, and they hope he won't need any more time than that to get the troublesome injury healed.
Willingham has been bothered by the sore knee for some time, and the last straw came when he felt increasing discomfort during pregame warmups on Monday night. He had an MRI on Tuesday that revealed the tear, but GM Terry Ryan said he didn't think Willingham would need to have surgery during the season.
"I think he will be all right in two weeks," Ryan said. "He could play on it, but unfortunately he tweaked it the other day. I think the two weeks will probably be ample time for him to be able to come back and perform."
Willingham has struggled this season coming off of a career year in 2012. He is hitting .224 with 10 homers and 37 RBIs, and the Twins think some time to rest may be just what he needs to regain the power-hitting form he had last season when he hit 35 homers and drove in 110 runs.
Willingham first tweaked his knee while sliding on a stolen base attempt, and he's been bothered by it for much of the last few weeks. He tried to take a shot to relieve the pain, but that was ineffective.
"We'll just have to wait and see how his leg responds, and then we'll know," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "You give him this time. We know it hasn't worked up to this point from the shot. ... We'll just give him his rehab and if he starts doing rehab and it doesn't work, I'm sure there will be other options."
The 34-year-old, who signed a three-year, $21 million contract before last season, tried to play through the pain. But it all came to a head on Monday night as he tried to warm up for the game. He was scratched from the start and placed on the disabled list less than 24 hours later.
"I've been sort of battling it for a while and then I hurt it again on Friday night," Willingham said. "I took a couple days off and tried to run last night, and it just wasn't happening.
The injury depleted an already thin Twins outfield and left them with few options. Struggling rookie Aaron Hicks was recalled from Triple-A Rochester to replace Willingham. Hicks got off to a horrendous start after making the jump from Double-A to the majors, then went on the disabled list with a hamstring injury.
The Twins were hoping to let Hicks get some extended at-bats in Triple-A to rebuild his confidence before recalling him, but the injury to Willingham derailed those plans. Hicks hit .190 in six games for the Red Wings since being activated.