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Bryce Harper placed on DL, Nationals fear ligament damage in injured thumb

Mark Townsend
Big League Stew

The latest information on Bryce Harper's thumb injury is not encouraging for the Washington Nationals. The 21-year-old outfielder was placed on the disabled list Sunday morning, and the team fears he may have suffered ligament damage when sliding head-first into third base during Friday night's win over the San Diego Padres

Via Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post: 

Harper will see another doctor for a second opinion, according to a person familiar with the situation, which should determine the full nature of Harper’s injury and how long it will keep him out. “Doesn’t look good,” the person said.

After Harper visited with a hand specialist Saturday at Nationals Park, the doctor ordered an MRI and the Nationals feared Harper may have suffered ligament damage. Television cameras spotted Harper wearing a small cast on his hand during the Nationals’ 4-0 victory over the Padres.

The Nationals were more optimistic on Saturday. Manager Matt Williams felt Harper would be available to pinch-hit if needed, and Harper agreed that it didn't feel like a serious problem initially. 

“I didn’t think so,” Harper  said. “When you hit it, you know whether it’s pretty serious or not. It just swelled up a little bit, and that was pretty much it.”

Unfortunately, neither are doctors, so the Nationals will await more concrete information from the specialists.

As we originally noted yesterday, It's a little ironic that Harper's most recent injury comes so soon after he was benched by Williams during their game last Saturday when he elected to play it conservative on a ground ball to the pitcher. Harper entered that game nursing a sore quad, but Williams felt like the play deserved a full effort from his All-Star. 

On Friday night, Harper's hustle was unquestioned, but ultimately he may have been done in by an ill-advised head-first slide. A play that sort of goes with the territory in terms of Harper's style of play, which many feel needs to be toned down in order for him to enjoy a long career. 

Hopefully the news won't be as bad as Washington fears, but at the very least they'll have to make due for the next two weeks. Veteran Nate McLouth should net most of the playing time in Harper's absence. Washington also recalled outfielder Steven Souza to serve as depth.

It's another early test for one of the favorites in the National League, who already lost Ryan Zimmerman to a fractured right thumb two weeks ago. At 14-11, they find themselves three games behind the division-leading Atlanta Braves. But it will be very interesting to see where they stand when one or both of their missing pieces are cleared to return. 

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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