Kearns' elbow not healing so Nats want more opinions

Updated: May 21, 2008, 8:00 PM ET
Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Outfielder Austin Kearns' sore right elbow doesn't seem to be getting any better, prompting the Washington Nationals to seek second and third opinions.

Kearns had an MRI exam on Tuesday, and the initial reading showed no tear or other serious problems. However, the Nationals are sending the results to two other doctors for more diagnoses.

Kearns missed his fourth straight game Wednesday and could be headed to the disabled list.

"I'm concerned about Austin," general manager Jim Bowden said. "The swelling hasn't gone down in the elbow. ... We're hoping the swelling will go down and he can play this weekend, but if he can't play by Monday we'll have to disable him."

Bowden said Kearns had loose fragments of bone floating in the elbow. It's possible the injury will require arthroscopic surgery, which would sideline Kearns for three to four weeks.

Kearns has struggled all season, batting .187 with three homers and 16 RBIs.

The news was slightly more upbeat for right-hander Shawn Hill, who didn't have his usual start Wednesday night but remains confident he'll be back on the mound when his turn in the rotation comes up again on Tuesday.

Hill had a cortisone shot and had fluid drained from his sore right elbow Saturday. He has also been dealing with a chronic nerve problem in the forearm.

"I'll be able to start," Hill said. "I don't expect to be 100 percent. I don't expect it to disappear and all of a sudden feel in tiptop shape, but I'll be able to go back and throw and hopefully grind it out."

Matt Chico came out of the bullpen to start for Hill on Wednesday, but manager Manny Acta said Hill would stay in the rotation even if Chico pitched well. Hill is 0-1 with a 4.08 ERA, and the rest of the staff is also shaping up nicely.

"It's pretty cut and dry right now what we have," Acta said. "Hill is hurt. He started in Hill's place, but if he threw seven shutout innings today, where would we put him? Right now the rotation's pretty much set."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press