By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 12, 2007
PHOENIX, Aug. 11 -- Washington Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden said Friday he believed injured right-hander Shawn Hill needed another minor league start before returning to the majors. Bowden then watched rookie left-hander Matt Chico and four relievers walk 10 men in a loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
So at some point Saturday, Bowden switched course, naming Hill the starter for Tuesday's game against the Philadelphia Phillies at RFK Stadium.
"I literally changed my mind," Bowden said. "I thought about it overnight, and after thoroughly looking at it and the way he pitched the last time out, he might not be as crisp and 100 percent as we'd like, but I think he's still our best pitcher."
Bowden said several factors entered into the decision, including the fact that the Phillies are in races for the division title and the wild-card berth. But when asked whether Chico's shaky performance contributed to the decision, Bowden paused before saying: "I think it just reminds us that Shawn Hill is an important part of our future, and he should be on the mound on Tuesday for us and not in Triple-A. . . . I think I made a wrong decision [Friday] and fortunately thought about it, and hopefully this is the right decision."
Chico, though, is well aware of his precarious position. The only member of the Nationals' rotation to make each of his scheduled starts this year, he is 1-1 with a 6.25 ERA in six starts since the all-star break, walking 21 in 31 2/3 innings. With Hill already on the way and right-hander Jason Bergmann (hamstring) likely back within a couple of weeks, spots are growing scarce. Asked if that concerned him, Chico said, "Definitely."
"I know that right now, it's really out of my hands," he said. "I try not to think about it and just pitch."
Hill went 3-3 with a 2.70 ERA in eight starts before going on the disabled list May 14 with left shoulder and right elbow problems. To make room for him, the Nationals will make a roster move after Sunday's game. One possible solution is to move one of the current starters to the bullpen and send down a reliever.
As for any notion that Chico is tiring, he has logged more than his current 128 innings in each of his past three seasons in the minors, including 178 2/3 last year.