- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 6, 2009

With an old thumb injury still bothering him and a quick diagnosis insufficient, Washington Nationals outfielder Austin Kearns went on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday. He could need surgery if there is no other way to remove buildup from his right thumb.

Kearns had an MRI on his thumb last night and will visit Dr. Tom Graham, the team’s hand specialist, in Baltimore on Thursday for another diagnosis.

Team doctor Wiemi Douoguih didn’t want to speculate on whether the injury would require surgery, but interim manager Jim Riggleman made it sound as though some type of operation might be necessary, if only to figure out exactly what’s bothering Kearns.

“There’s a bad cyst or some type of buildup in there that they’re going to open up a little bit and see if there’s more to be done, or if it’s something that’s going to be opened up and get some of the stuff that’s causing the swelling and irritation,” Riggleman said. “If that’s the case, I would say he’d probably be ready to play in a week or 10 days. But if they see that they’ve got to do some scraping and other stuff to the thumb area, I would say it would be a lot more than that.”

Kearns is hitting .195 with just three homers and 17 RBI in 80 games, an even more disappointing output than he had in 2008, when he hit .217 with seven homers and 32 RBI in 86 games.

Making $8 million this season, Kearns has a $10 million team option for next season. It’s almost certain the Nationals won’t pick that option up, choosing instead to buy Kearns out for $1 million.

Padilla debuts

In his 12 professional seasons, Jorge Padilla has made his home in such illustrious as locations like Kannapolis, N.C., Binghamton, N.Y., and Wichita, Kan. He’s fought hard to keep the belief that the day would finally come when he’d walk into a major league clubhouse.

It finally arrived Wednesday, when Padilla suited up for the Nationals. He was notified late Tuesday night he would be heading to the big leagues to replace Kearns, and everything was as good as he expected.

“This is great,” he said. “I’m in heaven.”

Most of Padilla’s time likely will come as a pinch hitter and a defensive replacement. But the Puerto Rico native found some vindication in just being able to dress in a major league clubhouse.

“I really thought it was going to come, but after a while, you probably start thinking, ‘Oh my God, is it coming? What do I got to do?’ ” Padilla said. “But we’re through all that and I’m here. I’m living in the moment now.”

Zimmermann returning?

Right-hander Jordan Zimmermann, who went 3 1/3 innings for Class A Potomac on Tuesday night before coming out of the game after he was hit with a line drive, could be pitching for the Nationals on Sunday. Or it could be next Tuesday in Atlanta. Or he could make another minor league start.

It all depends on the bullpen session Zimmermann will throw Friday, when the Nationals will get to see if the elbow tightness that put him on the disabled list can be worked out in the majors, or if he needs to get stretched out in another rehab start.

Zimmermann said he doesn’t feel tightness in his elbow when he’s pitching, only after he’s stepped off the mound.

“I’ve never had it like that,” Zimmermann said. “It’s not numb or anything. It just gets tight.”



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