Hill's Return Will Require Decisions

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 9, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 8 -- With right-hander Shawn Hill due to return to the Washington Nationals' rotation next week -- assuming his final rehabilitation start at Class AAA Columbus on Thursday goes well -- the club will have decisions to make about how to shape a pitching staff that, on the whole, has pitched extremely well.

In the month since the all-star break, the Nationals' ERA of 3.68 headed into Wednesday's game against the San Francisco Giants was the second-best in the NL. The current members of the starting rotation -- journeymen Mike Bacsik and Tim Redding and rookies John Lannan, Joel Hanrahan and Matt Chico -- have combined to go 6-2 with a 3.62 ERA since the break.

So who goes down?

"We're just going to have to make some moves," Manager Manny Acta said. "Obviously, we're going to have to put Shawn back in there. He's the main guy."

Hill was 3-3 with a 2.70 ERA in eight starts before going on the disabled list May 14. The Nationals believe if he's healthy, he could be a significant part of the future.

Acta said that Sept. 1, when rosters expand, will give the Nationals more flexibility.

"If there are guys that we have to send down and then bring them back up on September 1, we'll do it," Acta said. "Also, we're going to have to take into consideration some of the younger guys, the amount of innings that they have thrown this year. If we have to shut down some of the younger guys . . . we'll do that."

Chico is the one member of the rotation who has struggled since the break, posting a 6.08 ERA. But Acta said Chico, who is the only starter not to miss a turn in the rotation this year, had not been considered as someone to send down.

Young Leaves Game

First baseman Dmitri Young, who entered play with the seventh-best batting average in the National League, left Wednesday's game in the second inning with left hamstring tightness. Young, who went hitless for the first time in seven games Tuesday night, said he expects to take Thursday off but play Friday. He suffered the injury when he grounded to short in the first inning.

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