WASHINGTON -- The bumps and bruises of a catcher's life are expected. They're a part of the job. But Brian Schneider's recent history has been littered with some awfully bad luck, too.

Schneider was hospitalized on Thursday with a left thumb infection and will remain in New York's Hospital for Special Surgery overnight. Though the Mets remained hopeful that they could keep Schneider off the disabled list, his absence prompted the team to select the contract of catcher Gustavo Molina from Triple-A New Orleans, designating reserve outfielder Brady Clark for assignment.

"If they need to do something with it, it's probably a DL [situation]," Mets manager Willie Randolph said. "They'd need to lance it and get the infection out of there. Any time you open it up, you're probably going to be out longer than a couple of days."

Still, the Mets aren't resorting to that just yet. Schneider visited a hand specialist in Washington on Thursday morning, before flying to New York for a second opinion at the Hospital for Special Surgery. There, the team medical staff decided to keep him on intravenous antibiotics overnight, and planned to re-evaluate him in the morning.

Mets general manager Omar Minaya said that he expected Schneider back within 24 to 48 hours should the treatment work -- though nobody was quite certain if it would.

"I didn't know what to expect," Randolph said. "I never heard of anything like that."

Had it become necessary to place Schneider on the disabled list, the Mets would have activated Molina without having to make a corresponding move. But needing a backup catcher before the start of Thursday's game against the Nationals, the Mets were forced to designate Clark for assignment in order to make room for Molina. They couldn't afford to wait the extra day or two to determine Schneider's ultimate destination.

"He's day-to-day, of course," Minaya said of Schneider. "But that put us in a bind."

Raul Casanova, who started the three games Schneider missed this week with a deep right forearm bruise, was behind the plate on Thursday for the sixth time this season. Normal backup Ramon Castro remains on the disabled list indefinitely with a strained right hamstring, and the Mets have not yet announced a timetable for his return.

It's just the latest in a string of injuries that saw Schneider first miss all but seven Spring Training games with a sore right hamstring, then skip three regular-season games after Chase Utley fouled a ball off his right forearm last Saturday night in Philadelphia. He's played in 16 of the team's 21 games so far this season, hitting .308 with eight RBIs.

Thursday's move possibly paved the way for outfielder Moises Alou to join the Mets as soon as the team makes a decision on Schneider. Alou, who has been playing in extended Spring Training, could be ready to join the Mets as soon as this weekend. If Schneider is cleared to play, then the team can option Molina back to Triple-A and activate Alou from the disabled list to take his spot. If Schneider remains sidelined, then the Mets can place him on the disabled list retroactive to Thursday, and activate Alou nonetheless.

Everything, right now, depends on Schneider, who could miss significant time -- or not much at all. If his infection heals on the antibiotics, then Minaya said he would expect Schneider back in the lineup as soon as this weekend. If not, then doctors would have to drain the infection in a surgical procedure called lancing, which would give Schneider a much longer recovery time -- two weeks at a minimum, given disabled list rules.