- The Washington Times - Friday, May 23, 2008

Washington Nationals right fielder Austin Kearns will undergo arthroscopic surgery to remove loose bodies in his right elbow today. He is expected to miss three to four weeks.

Kearns was a late scratch for Sunday’s series finale against the Baltimore Orioles after he woke up with a swollen right elbow. He hasn’t played since then, and though X-rays of Kearns‘ elbow were negative, an MRI showed loose bodies - fragments of bone, cartilage or some foreign object - in his elbow.

The team sent the MRI to Cincinnati Reds medical specialist Tim Kremchek, who will perform the surgery in Cincinnati today.

Washington placed Kearns on the 15-day disabled list yesterday and will make a corresponding roster move before tonight’s game with the Milwaukee Brewers.

The injury leaves the Nationals with five healthy outfielders. Leading candidates to replace Kearns include minor league outfielders Ryan Langerhans, Justin Maxwell, Mike Daniel or Alex Escobar.

It’s the latest setback for the 28-year-old right fielder, who is hitting .187 this season with three home runs and 16 RBI. Kearns is one of seven players on the disabled list for the Nationals and one of four injured Opening Day starters (joining Nick Johnson, Ronnie Belliard and Paul Lo Duca).

The team had hoped to avoid surgery with Kearns as recently as Wednesday, but the swelling on his elbow was not going away.

General manager Jim Bowden said Wednesday he was unsure whether Kearns had played injured before Saturday.

“You don’t know with someone like Austin,” Bowden said. “Austin is extremely tough, and if he was hurt, he would never tell anyone. That’s just the way he is.”