The team believes Kearns hurt the foot while fouling off a pitch against the Reds on Aug. 3 at Nationals Park. Even Kearns is not sure when he hurt the foot. He continued to play with the injury until he was examined on Monday in Washington by orthopedist Dr. Edward Magur, who recommended rest and immobilization with a walking cast.
"His foot has been bothering him. He has been very sore. He kept playing with it and he kept playing hurt," general manager Jim Bowden said. "Of course Austin wants to play, but it's not going to get better. He started to favor it in the outfield. He was running on his heels at times. We don't want to all of a sudden blow a knee or something while he is playing with a broken foot. That doesn't make any sense."
Asked why he played hurt, Kearns said, "I felt it was something I could deal with and play with. ... I think it's something a little more serious than we thought."
This is Kearns' second DL stint this season. He missed 38 games after having surgery to remove loose bodies from his right elbow on May 23. Kearns was batting .217 with seven home runs and 32 RBIs in 86 games this season with Washington. Kearns has called this year the roughest season of his career.
"This has been the toughest one because of the injuries. But more than that, the way the season has gone for us as a team. It has been tough. It's part of the game," Kearns said. "Things like this, you hope to learn from and get better."
With Kearns out, the Nationals activated outfielder Elijah Dukes from the 15-day disabled list. Dukes will report to the Major League team on Wednesday.
Dukes missed the last 19 games with a right calf strain. He went 1-for-11 with a solo home run and three walks in six rehab games for Triple-A Columbus.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.