[Updated 12:32 p.m.]
Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left thumb sprain, and will travel to Cleveland on Monday for a second opinion with a hand specialist, manager Matt Williams announced on Sunday.
The Nationals are cautious to give a definitive timeline for Harper until after Monday's examination. Harper had an injury to the same thumb in high school and may have suffered ligament damage.
"He does have some history in that he hurt it in high school," Williams said. "The question is how new is it, and how much of the old injury is it. There are guys that play with it all the time. We'll get him a second opinion. We're putting him on the DL for now until he gets that second opinion. We'll get the swelling out of there, evaluate how he is, and see where he's at."
Harper hurt his thumb in Friday's game when sliding into third base on a triple. He jammed his hand into the bag while sliding and received an MRI the day after.
Harper is now icing it and taking time off in hopes the swelling will subside.
"It's sprained right now. I sprained it, they said. I'm just really trying to figure out in 15 days how I feel and not worry too much. We got a lot of off days in the next two weeks, that's huge. I'm really just trying to get a lot of treatment on it and see where I'm at," he said."
With Harper out of the lineup, Williams expects Nate McLouth to see a majority of the playing time. There could be a platoon situation with Kevin Frandsen, and Tyler Moore could also make some starts. But McLouth was essentially signed over the offseason to be the fourth outfielder and is ready to step in.
"He has the ability to play out there and play well, so we're going to rely on him," Williams said. "The ability to play all three positions is key for the extra outfielder, if that's what you want to say he is."
Williams said the team hopes Harper's thumb will get better with ice and rest. If he did suffer ligament damage, it could be something he deals with even after returning.
On that notion, however, Williams found one silver lining.
"The good thing, if it's an ongoing thing this year, is that it's his left hand, his glove hand. It's not his throwing hand. He took some swings the other night after he did it and felt okay. He hasn't done anything since because it's been swollen. The prognosis we just don't know yet because we're in the early stages. We decided to shut him down."
Harper now joins teammates Ryan Zimmerman, Wilson Ramos, Scott Hairston and Doug Fister on the disabled list. The first month of the 2014 season isn't even over, yet the Nationals are patching together lineups due to injuries up and down their roster.
Harper is disappointed to miss time, but realizes it's part of the game.
"It sucks definitely. It's part of baseball, you slide into the bag and sometimes it gets your fingers, that's just part of it. We'll see where I'm at at 15 and really try to get back as quick as I can."
Harper slid headfirst into third on Friday night and has since received criticism for hustling too much in a situation he didn't have to. Just one week before he was benched for not playing hard enough, presenting a tough continuum for the 21-year-old.
His manager, however, says there is no reason to question the play he injured himself on.
"I think it's bad luck. Guys slide first all the time, it just happens that he got his thumb in an awkward position. You can't question that, you can't question the way the kid plays the game. He plays the game hard."
The Nationals called up outfielder Steven Souza, Jr. from the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs as the corresponding move.