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NATIONALS NOTEBOOK

Hill Is Expected To Be Ready By First Week

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Washington Nationals pitcher Shawn Hill talks about his family's offseason acquisition, his dominant sinker and looks forward to opening night. Video by Jonathan Forsythe/washingtonpost.com

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By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 5, 2008

VIERA, Fla., March 4 -- Washington Nationals right-hander Shawn Hill, prohibited from throwing since Friday because of soreness in his right forearm, has no structural or nerve damage and could resume throwing as soon as Thursday, club officials said after Hill returned from an examination by a specialist.

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Though Manager Manny Acta initially said Tuesday morning that the injury "doesn't put him on schedule to be ready for Opening Day," Acta was more optimistic after speaking with Hill. General Manager Jim Bowden said the club expects Hill to be healthy for the first week of the season after the examination by David Ruch at Duke University Medical Center corroborated results of an MRI exam Hill had last week.

Asked if Hill would be ready, Bowden said: "That's our plan. That's his plan. Let's hope our plans work."

Hill, limited to 16 major league starts in 2007 because of left shoulder and right arm problems, might have to pitch through pain. He is on new medication that the doctors believe will help, and he will try different stretching and strengthening methods. He said if he can get the pain to subside even a little, he should be able to perform.

"I pitched with discomfort in my elbow for six or seven years," Hill said. "I got no problem throwing through discomfort and pain."

Another factor that might allow Hill to avoid the disabled list: Because the Nationals are off the third day of the season, they won't need a fifth starter until April 6, when they play their seventh game of the season. If Hill needs more time, he could simply slide into that spot.

Pérez Impresses

Veteran lefty Odalis Pérez impressed nearly the entire front office -- as well as Acta -- in a three-inning minor league outing. Pérez, signed to a minor league contract last month, retired all nine hitters he faced. He struck out four, including veteran Aaron Boone. Twenty of his first 21 pitches were strikes, and he ended up with 30 strikes in 36 pitches.

"He threw the ball real good," Acta said. Pérez's change-up, in particular, baffled the young hitters, which included Washington's top prospect, first baseman Chris Marrero.

"Everything feels good," Pérez said.

Pérez is not allowed to pitch in a game for which fans pay because he has not obtained his work visa from the Dominican Republic. He said he will likely have to travel home to obtain the visa. . . .

Boone got three at-bats on the minor league side as he works his way back from a left knee injury. . . .

Lefty Matt Chico started a 5-3 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, allowing three runs in three innings. He said he is still working on consistently shortening his stride, which allows him to stay on top of the ball better. "It's not natural yet," he said. . . .

In the second half of a split-squad day, Jason Bergmann gave up solo homers to Andy LaRoche and George Lombard in three innings of work. The Nationals beat the Dodgers, 4-3.


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