"It's been three or four days we've talked about trying to give him a blow," Gardenhire said. "He needs a blow.
"He's been playing great defense and swinging well for us. But you have to remember: He's not the youngest guy in the world. He needs a break every once in a while."
Willingham hasn't been very productive in recent games. He's just 2-for-18 since the beginning of the Boston series on Monday. He also let a ball bounce off his glove for a triple against the White Sox on Friday night, a play that helped Chicago rally to tie the game in the ninth inning.
But Gardenhire said the day off is not related to Willingham's play.
"He's pretty excited about it, to tell you the truth," Gardenhire said. "We have to be guarded with him. We've played a lot of baseball, and I don't want to beat him up too much. He's healthy. We want to keep it that way."
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. Alex Smith is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.