Doctor Gives Hill the 'Best Possible News'

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 26, 2007

ATLANTA, June 25 -- On the same day the Washington Nationals found out starting shortstop Cristian Guzman is out for the year, they received encouraging news on one of their most promising pitchers. Right-hander Shawn Hill visited renowned orthopedist James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., and Andrews diagnosed only tendinitis. Hill received a cortisone shot and should begin throwing within the next 10 days.

"It's pretty much the best possible news I could have," Hill said Monday by phone.

Hill missed all of 2005 with ligament replacement surgery in his elbow, a procedure performed by Andrews. He said visiting the offices Monday brought back memories from that time.

"I started getting nervous once I got here," he said. "I was basically expecting some sort of surgery, either arthroscopic just to clean something out of there or all the way with 'Tommy John' " -- the nickname for ligament replacement surgery.

The news brought sighs of relief throughout the organization, which has endured an unusual number of injuries this season. "This is big," team president Stan Kasten said, "because there's no question that Shawn Hill, if healthy, is a big part of our future."

Hill was 3-3 with a 2.70 ERA in eight starts before going on the disabled list May 14 with a left shoulder strain originally incurred when he dived back into a base April 20 at Florida. Hill felt the shoulder caused him to alter his mechanics, putting strain on his elbow.

Hill said he would like to be back "by early August. I think that's reasonable."

Smoker's Meet and Greet

Josh Smoker, the left-handed pitcher from Calhoun, Ga., whom the Nationals took with the 31st pick in this month's draft, was at Turner Field to meet with Manager Manny Acta, Kasten and several team members.

"Just even getting to talk to them, it's a great honor," Smoker said. The sides are still in negotiations, though Smoker, who has committed to Clemson, said that he wants to sign.

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