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Hill speaks, with lineups added

Just got off the phone with Shawn Hill. His feelings about his surgery - which is now scheduled for 5 p.m. tomorrow at Sibley Hospital in the District, to be performed by team orthopedist Ben Shaffer and hand/upper extremity specialist Richard Barth (note to self: should have been an "upper extremity specialist") - are mixed.

He's a bit frustrated. But the point is this: If there is anything, anything at all, that could be done to clean up his elbow and get rid of that kind of nagging pain he had in his right forearm this year, it's better to do it now than it would be to hope it goes away over the winter, only to find it flaring up again come spring training.

"I can throw with it," Hill said, speaking of the nerve problem. "But that, combined with the elbow and the shoulder, it just kind of became too much. If they release the nerve, kind of create some more room there, and clean up the elbow, those two things combined we're hoping will just help the case overall.

"The left shoulder is the only one that we're fixing," he added, and he'll travel to Birmingham to see Dr. Andrews anywhere from 10 days to two weeks after his surgery tomorrow. "That's the only one that's a serious problem. But the point is because I'm having the surgery done [on the left shoulder], it makes sense to do anything else now, and hopefully create a positive effect next year for the arm as opposed to just forgetting about it and hoping it goes away. If there's anything there, we want to nip it in the bud."

Given all that, I asked Hill how he felt about his 2007 season - 16 starts in the majors, about half what he would hope to make - and how that affects his approach to 2008.

"Overall, I was happy with things," he said. "But in the big picture, to be honest, it's disappointing, because going into the season, the whole thing was: Stay healthy. Prove what I can do and put up numbers, yeah, but stay healthy. I didn't.

"That being said, I think that with the problems that I had, and being able to put up reasonable numbers, I feel much better about where I stand in the big leagues. I feel like I can compete up here now. I should be able to hold down a spot for, hopefully, a long time to come.

"With only 16 starts, maybe I don't have what it takes. Maybe I have even better stuff. I have no idea. But I think going into next year, as long as everything's fixed properly, I'll probably go in with even higher expectations to, 1) go out there every fifth day, and 2) put up good numbers. I'll probably be as hard on myself - if not harder."

This guy is fairly realistic about what all this means. I told him that our first question after every outing, every bullpen session, in spring training and on into the season will be, "How'd it feel?" He understands.

"It happened with Patterson, too, when he came back and got hurt again. And the fans, of course, could jump on the bandwagon and say, 'Can we count on these guys?'" Hill said. "It's understandable. The only way to prove them wrong is go out and make 30 starts and put up the numbers."

This is a big deal for this team. And watch tonight's game, too, because Jason Bergmann is a big deal for this team. If the Nationals are going to keep the pace of improvement that they've set for themselves, then they can't have guys they're counting on be unavailable. They are not counting on Patterson right now because of his history. But they had been counting on Hill. If that's the case, then these two surgeries must work, and he has to be at spring training ready to go.

Another interesting layer to the offseason. For tonight: Bergmann vs. Glavine. Almost a must-win for the Mets. Starting to look like the Phillies have an inside track to the playoffs, whether they win the division or not. How 'bout those Rockies, just a game back in the wild card. Fun stuff.

Lineups:

Nationals:
Lopez -- 6
Belliard -- 4
Zimmerman -- 5 (average against lefties: .397, second in the National League to Milwaukee's Ryan Braun (a sick .445)
Kearns -- 9
Pena -- 7
Batista -- 3
Schneider -- 2 (Flores would normally go against the lefty Glavine, but his elbow is still swollen -- thought it's mch better than yesterday)
Maxwell -- 8
Bergmann -- 1

Mets:
Reyes -- 6
Castillo -- 4
Wright -- 5
Beltran -- 8
Alou -- 7
Delgado -- 3
Lo Duca -- 2
Green -- 9
Glavine -- 1

Also: Frank Robinson is here. Stopped in the clubhouse, was in the dugout during batting practice. Talked to him for quite a while. He's here visiting the MLB offices in Manhattan, and likely will watch the game from Omar Minaya's box. (He used to work for Omar, if you recall.) He's doing well, and clearly still watches the Nationals closely. Has been impressed by Flores, likes Maxwell's frame, etc. Spirits seem good.

That's it from pregame. Enjoy.

By Barry Svrluga  |  September 25, 2007; 3:30 PM ET
 
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Next: 71 wins. Who had it? (Be honest)

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