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Nats' Shawn Hill on Winter Rehab

A couple people brought up Shawn Hill's rehab in comments yesterday, which turned out to be a particularly fortuitous concern. Why? Because the recovering starter called in to MASN's Hot Stove show last night to address his road toward a comeback from surgery to remove bone spurs in his elbow and his winter training approach.

Here's the highlights from Hill, who called in from Toronto, where he was visiting family for the winter holidays (he lives in Florida the rest of the year):

-- According to Hill, his rehab has been going well, but that may be because it's consisted mostly of rest rather than the active rehab he's been put through in past years (after Tommy John surgery, et. al).

-- He is working out, and he's been lifting weights but has stuck to light weights rather than a more traditional strength building routine.

-- Most importantly, Hill says he's been throwing for four weeks without any adverse side effects (go ahead and take a deep breath Nats fans. That's an early bullet dodged).

-- Despite less throwing than in some of his past rehabilitation efforts, Hill seemed fairly upbeat about his progress. Why? "I'm trying to stay away from the monotonous throwing programs (i.e., 20 tosses a day, etc.). They're just the worst."

-- So why did the Nats have such a hard time figuring out what was wrong with Hill? According to the starter, it came down to the MRI and its inability to detect contrast within his arm tendons. Evidently it's not that uncommon for pitchers who have undergone Tommy John surgery in the past, because it becomes increasingly difficult to differentiate between collateral damage from past surgeries and damage from a more recent injury.

-- The best sign of all for Hill's health: During the surgery, Dr. James Andrews tested Hill's UCL (ulnar collateral ligament) and reported that it was completely healthy, indicating a decisive improvement over prior injuries.

-- And how does Hill feel about coming into the season with doubts about his availability and whether he'll be able to perform? Let's let him speak for himself:

"If I'm healthy and I can come out and put up the numbers I'm capable of, everything will fall into place. (The doubts) give me a little more motivation."

All of that news should be good for Nats fans, who can only hope they get the Shawn Hill of 2007 in 2009.

By Cameron Smith  |  January 3, 2009; 7:13 PM ET
Categories:  Nationals  
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Totally rooting for Hill. From a baseball point of view, I think he has given us reason to think he can hold the 2 spot in a play-off rotation, maybe even be a legitimate ace.

Second, for him personally. Can't imagine how frustrating his career has been and he has been an absolute class act w/ zero exceptions. He reminds me of Greg Maddux that way. Looking forward to see if he can pitch like Maddux, not an unreasonable thought.

If he can live up to 80% of his potential, that is a huge step forward for the team's development. And a great turnaround for a classy ball player.

Posted by: Avar | January 3, 2009 10:32 PM | Report abuse

If he makes the rotation out of Spring training how can you trust that he'll last more than a month? I don't want to go through another season of holding my breath and crossing my fingers every time he throws a pitch.

Posted by: egrib | January 4, 2009 1:06 AM | Report abuse

Great stuff. I saw the video and STILL enjoyed reading this.
Thanks Cameron.

Posted by: NatsNut | January 4, 2009 8:26 AM | Report abuse

I am pulling for Shawn. He can pitch. At the same time i think the Nats should still land another quality pitcher like Ben Sheets for example. This would give them Sheets, Olson, Cabrera, Hill, and Lannon. Not in that order per say, but that's my idea of a good rotation. The offense still needs alot of work though.

Posted by: UnkleWheez | January 4, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Sign me up for letting Hill go. This guy will obviously live up to his "potential". Where did lofty expectations ever come from anyways? Hill has never hit 100 innings pitched and never had more than 4 wins. Again, why do the Nats want this guy around. Forget about his "stuff". Those who are ignorant of history are condemned to repeat it! I'm not looking forward to another ST like we had last year when we were all wondering how Patterson and Hill were coming back. Just like Patterson last season, Hill will not be with the Nats come opening day. BTW... where is Patterson these days? Exactly...

Posted by: Keenan1 | January 4, 2009 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Of all the pitchers who have come through the Nats rotation, Shawn Hill has been the one I have enjoyed watching the most. Just a killer sinker and a gritty attitude. I often would say to my son, "Hey, Shawn Hill is pitching tonight. Let's go down to the game." The Nats need more players like that.

Posted by: AshburnVA | January 4, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Hey Ashburn, I hope you've enjoyed your 34 Shawn Hill games the last three seasons along with all 6 wins and 197.1 IP. 34 GS 6 W and 197.1 IP OVER THREE FREAKING SEASONS! Sure, Hill is nice on the eyes when he pitches, but that's WHEN he pitches. What makes anyone think this guy will ever NOT have arm problems? Good riddance!

Posted by: Keenan1 | January 4, 2009 3:18 PM | Report abuse

For crying out loud, we are talking about bringing in a guy who makes the major league minimum and who everyone recognizes has killer stuff when he's fit. He's far less of a gamble than several rehab cases that have made comebacks for this team and others. See what he's got in the spring. No one is conceding him a rotation spot. It in no way impacts the planning for the season.

Right now, the rotation is Olsen, Lannan, Cabrera, Balester most likely, and the Nationals Idol contest among Zimmermann, Martis, Bergmann, and a few others. Hill is so cheap, we can still bring in a veteran or two like Perez / Redding / Loaiza in the past if we don't trust Balester and Nationals Idol. If Hill actually works out, it lets JZ/SM get in some innings in Syracuse before their eventual call up.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | January 4, 2009 6:03 PM | Report abuse

Why wasn't this an NJ-posted blog?

Posted by: leetee1955 | January 4, 2009 10:29 PM | Report abuse

BTW Cameron, my Shawn Hill question the same day as the MASN bit was pure coincidence. I don't own a TV so I knew nothing about him calling in.

Posted by: NatsNut | January 5, 2009 10:27 AM | Report abuse

I'm rooting for Hill too.

When his fastball is on, the movement makes me nauseous with how sick it is. Pitchers with fastball movement like that are hard to come by.

A rotation with a healthy him plus Olsen and Lannan and some others doesn't sound 102 losses awful... It's not 102 wins, but its not 102 losses... know what I'm saying?

Posted by: DudeItsEric | January 5, 2009 6:23 PM | Report abuse

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