Washington Nationals star outfielder Bryce Harper is being placed on the disabled list with a sprained left thumb.
Bryce Harper goes on DL with left thumb sprain. Steven Souza called up from AAA.
— Mark Zuckerman (@ZuckermanCSN) April 27, 2014
Harper suffered the thumb injury on Friday night while sliding into third base on a triple.
Believe it or not, this is only the second DL stint for Harper in his career. Despite the perception that Harper has suffered many injuries during his major league career, most of the time he missed was related to a knee injury suffered while running into a wall last season – 39 of the 44 games he missed last year somehow related to that injury, either due to his knee or the hip injury that came soon thereafter.
This season, Harper was hitting .289/.352/.422 with one home run and one stolen base, but he had just started heating up in the three games before the injury, totaling five hits in his last 12 plate appearances before leaving Friday’s game with the Padres. His production hasn’t been helped by Matt Williams jerking him around in the lineup, with Harper hitting in five different lineup spots since Opening Day.
Though Washington called up Steven Souza from AAA, the bulk of Harper’s plate appearances will likely go to veterans Nate McLouth or Kevin Frandsen, both of whom were signed as free agents this offseason. McLouth has three hits in 40 plate appearances this season, while Frandsen has lit up the ledger with a .267/.353/.300 line. Obviously, neither player is a solid replacement for Harper, who is a superior player even when he’s struggling.
As for the Nationals as a whole, Harper’s injury doesn’t come at a great time for them. The team embarks on a five game road trip on Tuesday that will take them to Houston and Philadelphia before returning home for three with the Dodgers and then heading back on the road to Oakland and Arizona. If Harper’s thumb is alright by then, the Nationals should be in decent shape, but it’s a bad break considering they could have picked up some ground on the first place Braves, who have six each with the Giants and the Cardinals over the next three weeks.