Harper out 2 months with torn thumb ligament

Harper out 2 months with torn thumb ligament
April 28, 2014, 6:00 pm
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Bryce Harper needs surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb and is expected to miss approximately two months, a source familiar with the Nationals outfielder's condition confirmed Monday evening.

Harper was examined by a specialist at The Cleveland Clinic earlier Monday, receiving a second opinion after having his thumb examined by another specialist Saturday at Nationals Park. The diagnosis, according to the source, is a torn ulnar collateral ligament.

Surgery is planned for Tuesday, with full recovery not expected until late-June or early-July.

Harper injured himself sliding headfirst into third base on a bases-loaded triple Friday night against the Padres. He jammed his left thumb into the base, then grabbed his hand and shook it after getting up to his feet. Harper remained in the game for another inning, fielding two balls in left field, then was removed once the thumb began to swell up.

At the time, the 21-year-old outfielder was upbeat, believing the injury wasn't severe and that he could be back within a matter of days. Even after he landed on the disabled list Sunday, Harper was hopeful he'd be ready to return to the Nationals' lineup after the minimum 15 days.

The injury, though, proved more severe than originally expected, similar to one suffered recently by Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton.

The Nationals, already without key regulars Ryan Zimmerman and Wilson Ramos due to hand injuries, now face the prospect of playing without Harper for a prolonged stretch.

General manager Mike Rizzo signed veteran Nate McLouth in December to a two-year, $10.75 million contract, explicitly pointing out how much the club's previous No. 4 outfielders were needed over the last three seasons. Now McLouth, who opened the season just 4-for-31 at the plate, figures to get significant playing time in left field, with Kevin Frandsen, Tyler Moore and Scott Hairston (once the latter returns from a strained oblique muscle) also contributing.