BALTIMORE -- When reporters arrived in the Nationals' locker room around 10:20 a.m. ET on Sunday, right fielder Austin Kearns was in the starting lineup. But 30 minutes later, Kearns was scratched and Elijah Dukes was inserted.
Washington manager Manny Acta wouldn't say why he made the lineup change in the morning, but it was learned before the game that Kearns has a sore right elbow. He is listed as day-to-day.
"He's a tough guy. He doesn't want to be out of the lineup," Acta said after the game. "We thought resting him was the best thing."
Kearns felt the pain before Saturday's game against the Orioles. In that 6-5 loss, he went 0-for-4 and was unable to come through in a key situation in the eighth inning.
Kearns came to the plate with an opportunity to at least tie the score. He worked the count to 3-2. On the next pitch, Kearns swung at a pitch that was high in the strike zone, but he managed to foul it off. But then Baltimore reliever Jim Johnson threw a sinking fastball on the inside part of the plate, and Kearns swung and missed to end the inning. Kearns threw his bat in disgust.
Kearns said the elbow injury had nothing to do with his problems at the plate.
"The elbow wasn't normal. [I'll] just give it a day to get some treatment and get it back," Kearns said. "We'll see how it feels. I would think it would be all right."
Kearns is having the toughest season of his career, hitting .187 with three home runs and 16 RBIs.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.