By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 29, 2008
Yesterday, Shawn Hill's season, a snarl of 12 rocky starts, countless painkiller shots, two trips to the disabled list, and one long-running comeback attempt ended in two words. "He's done," Manager Manny Acta said.
As in, done for the season.
Hill felt a new kind of elbow pain on Wednesday while rehabbing in Viera, Fla., all part of an attempt to work his way back to the Nationals by mid-September.
Hill today will visit orthopedist James Andrews in Pensacola, Fla., hoping to find the root of right arm pain that, so far, has created more mystery than answers. No MRI exam yet has indicated any structural damage in Hill's elbow or forearm, but General Manager Jim Bowden yesterday said that the team is "concerned" about Hill's future.
When Hill is healthy -- and examples of such are a distant memory -- he is among Washington's most promising starters: "He looked like a pretty solid number three guy on a winning ballclub," Acta said. But this year, Hill began the season on the disabled list, came back to make 12 pain-riddled starts (1-5, 5.83 ERA), and finally was shut down, ordered into a program of lengthy rest and rehabilitation.
While pitching earlier this year, Hill was bothered most acutely by discomfort with his forearm. In recent weeks, Hill's progress in Florida created much encouragement for a comeback this season. The team hoped to have Hill pitch out of the bullpen by Sept.10.
"I can only tell you that all of a sudden he started having pain," Bowden said. "He was doing fine. We were projecting him to come up and pitch here in September, and he just had a setback."
Hill has dealt with injuries his entire career. He missed all of 2005 after undergoing elbow ligament replacement surgery in September 2004. Bowden speculated that the swelling in Hill's right elbow -- perhaps a form of calcification -- is linked to that surgery.
"I have felt bad for him for the last four years, because, I mean, even since we were in Montreal, this guy has been battling injuries," Acta said. "I hope he overcomes all this. You know, you're always going to wonder what he could have done if he had stayed healthy and what kind of pitcher, what kind of impact he could have made."