Nationals left fielder Bryce Harper will undergo surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb and could miss more than two months, according to a person familiar with the situation.
Harper visited Dr. Thomas Graham at the Cleveland Clinic on Monday for a final opinion on his battered left thumb, which had already landed him on the Nationals’ crowded disabled list. The diagnosis confirmed the Nationals’ worst fear and will leave their already diminished lineup without one of its best players.
After Saturday, the Nationals worried Harper had damaged his ligament sliding into third base Friday night with a three-run triple. Harper, Manager Matt Williams said Sunday, endured a similar injury while in high school, which added to the Nationals’ concern.
Harper, 21, will miss a significant chunk of a season for the second time in his young career. Last year, the left knee bursitis he played through for much of the year forced him to the disabled list for 31 games and ultimately necessitated offseason surgery.
The Nationals are already playing without injured regulars Doug Fister, Wilson Ramos and Ryan Zimmerman and reserve Scott Hairston. They also missed center fielder Denard Span for one week with a concussion.
With Harper out for an extended period, the Nationals will rely on Nate McLouth, the veteran the Nationals signed to a two-year, $10.75 million contract in December. They paid a premium for a backup because both Harper and Jayson Werth had missed significant time in recent seasons, and last year they had no suitable replacement.
“We thought with Nate, who’s been a really good player on a contending team, he can be an everyday guy,” General Manager Mike Rizzo said earlier Monday.