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Updated: July 2nd, 2013 10:16pm
Notebook: Willingham will have left knee scoped, out until August

Notebook: Willingham will have left knee scoped, out until August

by Brandon Warne
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Twins will not be trading Josh Willingham before the July 31 trade deadline.

The team announced after Tuesday's loss to the Yankees that Willingham will have his sore left knee scoped on Wednesday and will miss four to six weeks, thus sidelining him until at least early August.

The Twins placed Willingham on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday with a medial meniscus tear and a bone bruise in his left knee. Willingham said it's been something he's been battling for a while, but it really cropped up on him more on Friday night versus the Royals.

The bone bruise injury is something Willingham said he has never had before. "This is kind of new," Willingham said Tuesday afternoon. "But it's what the MRI said; I haven't actually spoken to a doctor. I'll do that tonight."

"Every time I take a step running on it pounds on it," Willingham said of the bone bruise.

Willingham also added that while there was some relief that he now knows what's wrong with his knee, he had still held out hope that the MRI would come back clean. "I kinda knew something else was going on with the way I was feeling," Willingham conceded.

Willingham confirmed that he's been battling the knee woes a bit since a terribly awkward slide on his lone stolen base back in late April versus the Rangers.

"I think that was sort of the beginning of it," Willingham said. "I don't know if I altered the way I ran a little bit and that opened up the bone (to bruising). I don't know how it happened or how we got to this point, but that's sort of where it all began."

Hicks back in the fold

The corresponding move for Willingham's trip to the disabled list was the activation of centerfielder Aaron Hicks, who had missed 19 games with a hamstring strain.

Hicks admitted he was getting antsy, but that he felt he had put his time in Rochester to good use.

"You can't wait to get back on the field," Hicks said. "It was good for me to go down and get ready to go again."

Hicks, who had never actually played any games at Triple-A before, said he felt he moved around well and experienced no pain as he went 4 for 21 in six games before his activation. Hicks said his teammates with the Red Wings treated him as though he was a rookie to Rochester, saving him the baseball from his first hit and just treating him as a rookie in general.

That batting line only comes out to an uninspiring .190/.261/.238 mark, but results were never the main point of Hicks' rehab.

"Down there it seemed like in all my at bats I wanted to get deep into counts and see lot of pitches," Hicks said. "Get my timing down. It wasn't so much about getting hits, but recognizing pitches. Feeling the pace of the game. Being able to establish seeing the ball from in and out."

But ultimately, Hicks said he's just ready to get going. He found out that he was making his return trip to Minnesota about midnight Monday night, arrived in the Twin Cities Tuesday, and hit the ground running with a double off the right field wall in his first plate appearance against Yankees right-hander Phil Hughes.

Ryan not worried about Burton's velocity

Jared Burton's June woes have spilled into July, as Monday night's three-run hiccup in just one-third of an inning continues a bad run that more or less started on June 1. In that time frame, Burton's ERA has more than doubled from 2.02 to 4.29 while the right-hander has dropped four decisions over that span.

One possible culprit has been the decreased velocity on Burton's fastball, which has fallen from a 92.9 mph average velocity in 2012 to 91.6 this season (via PITCHf/x).

A more likely reason, at least according to general manager Terry Ryan, has been the ineffectiveness of Burton's hybrid splitter-changeup.

"He's had a tough go of it," Ryan said. "I am concerned, because it's not just one or two, it's a few backed up. He was shutdown dominant last year, and it's not happening for him right now. It's location and feel for that splange that he throws."

PITCHf/x lists the wOBA against on Burton's splange to be .200 this year after allowing a .201 mark last year. But while that essentially means the same on the whole, without detailed splits it's not outside of the realm of possible that the pitch has flattened on Burton in recent weeks -- perhaps in conjunction with his groin injury.

On the whole, the only things that stand out with pitch is that Burton is generating fewer swings at it when it's out of the strike zone -- 52.6% --> 47.6% -- and that it's finding the strike zone a bit more frequently. Still, on the whole, nothing jumps off the stat sheet as a red flag, likely suggesting that any regression from Burton lately has been masked by a tremendous early season start.

Sore Shoulder for Tonkin

Michael Tonkin has been phenomenal as a relief ace between Double-A New Britain and Triple-A Rochester this year. Between the two levels, Tonkin has compiled a 1.50 ERA, 10.2 strikeouts per 9 innings, and a 1.03 WHIP.

In fact, Tonkin is probably the next candidate for a call-up should the Twins need to dip into the minors to get another relief arm.

But Tonkin was recently sidelined for nine days due to a sore shoulder. He returned to action on Tuesday, allowing two earned runs on three hits and a walk in one inning.

"He's been sore a little bit," Ryan said in reference to Tonkin's right shoulder. The Twins downplayed any worry about Tonkin in the short-term. "He's just a little banged-up," Ryan added, noting that Tonkin wasn't on the disabled list and shouldn't need a stint.

Etc.

* The Twins briefly showed interest in former Orioles pitcher Jake Arrieta, who was traded in a much bigger deal with the Cubs on Tuesday. Arrieta was moved with hard-throwing reliever Pedro Strop and cash -- international free agent bonus money -- in return for Scott Feldman -- a free agent whom the Twins showed interest in this winter -- and catcher Steve Clevenger.

* The Twins presented retiring Yankees closer Mariano Rivera with a "Chair of Broken Dreams" prior to Tuesday's game. The gift -- which is customary for teams to give to a luminary making his final rounds in competing MLB towns -- was made up solely of broken bats, of which Gardenhire told Rivera jokingly that he'd likely broken many of.

The idea for the chair was Gardenhire's, as he and Ryan echoed the sentiment that Rivera has been nothing but a model citizen in his big league career. Rivera's career started in 1995, and the only players still active from his first day in the major leagues are Jason Giambi (CLE), Darren Oliver (TOR), Andy Pettitte (NYY), and former Twin LaTroy Hawkins (NYM).

Brandon Warne covers the Minnesota Twins for 1500ESPN.com. He has also contributed as a baseball analyst for Fangraphs.com and BaseballProspectus.com
Email Brandon | @Brandon_Warne
In this story: Jared Burton, Josh Willingham
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