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08/30/09 2:58 PM ET

Kearns' return to Nationals uncertain

Veteran outfielder rehabbing from right thumb surgery

ST. LOUIS -- Nationals outfielder Austin Kearns is progressing slowly from a right thumb injury and isn't expected to rejoin Washington anytime soon.

Kearns, who was placed on the disabled list on Aug. 4 with a deep thumb bruise, had surgery shortly thereafter, but the same injury that plagued him in Cincinnati won't seem to go away.

"It's going to be a while yet," said Nats interim manager Jim Riggleman. "We were hoping in early September maybe he would be able to play, but the latest I am hearing, it's probably going to be a little bit deeper into September before he can really aggressively swing the bat."

It would seem to make more sense to shut the outfielder down for the rest of the season so that he can fully heal and be 100 percent for Spring Training in 2010 instead of having him hurry back for the final few weeks.

But Riggleman said on Sunday morning that the club hadn't discussed that and they were hoping he would be able to play at some point before the season ended.

"There's not really a reason to do it or not do it," Riggleman said. "If he can't swing the bat, then he would be shut down, but if he can, I know he'd like to get out there and we'd like to let him get out there. If he's cleared by the doctor and trainer, then we will put him out there, but if he's not, then everything he would do at that point would just be conditioning."

Kearns was hitting just .195 with three home runs before going on the DL.

B.J. Rains is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.