Nationals Notebook

Hill Has 'Terrific' Outing

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 20, 2007

VIERA, Fla., March 19 -- Washington Nationals right-hander Shawn Hill continues to prove he deserves the job as the No. 2 starter. On Monday, he overcame a shaky first inning (two hits, two walks) to throw five innings of shutout ball in a 9-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. With two starts remaining in Grapefruit League play, Manager Manny Acta had one word: "Terrific."

Hill's 70-pitch outing was his longest of the spring, and he allowed four hits, those two walks and struck out four, mixing in an effective change-up more frequently than in previous starts. He had been concerned about control in the strike zone coming into the start.

"First inning, terrible," he said. "After that, not bad."

Hill has allowed just two earned runs in 14 spring innings for a 1.29 ERA.

Building the Ballclub

With Opening Day two weeks away, General Manager Jim Bowden said the construction of the final 25-man roster will have as much to do with Major League Baseball's complicated rules that govern the clubs' control over players as it will with the performance of those players.

"There's going to be injuries, so you got to try to figure out how do you protect your best 32" players, Bowden said. "That may mean you option a guy out because he has options [remaining] and somebody else doesn't."

With some rare exceptions, once a player is placed on a team's 40-man roster, he can be sent to the minors in three different seasons without the club being at risk of losing him. But if a player is out of options, he must pass through waivers -- giving the other 29 teams a chance to claim him -- before he can be assigned to the minors.

That means prospect Kory Casto is almost certain to end up in Class AAA Columbus because fellow outfielders Chris Snelling and Ryan Church are out of options. It could also work against a pitcher such as Jason Bergmann, who has been effective but has an option remaining.

Infielder Josh Wilson, who Bowden called one of the spring's most pleasant surprises, could be the front-runner for the backup infielder's job because he is out of options and could generate interest from other teams.

Extra Bases

Catcher Brian Schneider, hitting a robust .375 during the best spring of his career, slightly tweaked his left hamstring running from first to third on Saturday and hasn't played since. He described himself as "day-to-day." . . .

The club released five players who had been reassigned to minor league camp -- pitchers Colby Luis and Luis Martinez, first baseman Jorge Toca, outfielder Wayne Lydon and utility man Jose Macias.

Bullpen Delivers Relievers Ryan Wagner, Mike Bacsik and Josh Hall combined to allow one run in four innings Monday. Wagner, who gave up the run, is assured of a spot in the bullpen, while the other two remain long shots. Up Next vs. Marlins in Jupiter, 1:05 p.m.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company