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Shawn Hill: The Past, and the Future

We all know I have a certain crush on a certain pitch thrown by a certain member of the Nationals' staff. We also know that we won't be seeing that certain member of the Nationals' staff throw that certain pitch the rest of the year.

But - putting personal feelings aside for a moment - what to make of Shawn Hill?

Let's look at this a bit. Here are his stats since he became a pro:

2000 -- GCL Expos: 7 GS, 24-1/3 IP, 1-3, 4.81 ERA
2001 -- Class A Vermont: 7 GS, 35-2/3 IP, 2-2, 2.27 ERA
2002 -- Class A Clinton: 25 GS, 146-2/3 IP, 12-7, 3.44 ERA
2003 -- Class A Brevard County: 22 G/21 GS, 126-2/3 IP, 9-4, 2.56 ERA
2003 -- Class AA Harrisburg: 4 GS, 20-1/3 IP, 3-1, 3.54 ERA
2004 -- Class AA Harrisburg: 17 GS, 87-2/3 IP, 5-7, 3.39 ERA
2004 -- Montreal: 3 GS, 9 IP, 1-2, 16.00 ERA
2005 -- Out all year after ligament replacement surgery
2006 -- Class AA Harrisburg: 10 GS, 50-1/3 IP, 3-3, 2.68 ERA
2006 -- Class AAA New Orleans: 1 GS, 5 IP, 0-0, 3.60 ERA
2006 - Washington: 6 GS, 36-2/3 IP, 1-3, 4.86 ERA
2007 - Washington: 16 GS, 97-1/3 IP, 4-5, 3.42 ERA (plus three minor-league rehab starts totaling 12 innings)

So, to review, Hill has thrown more than 100 innings in a season three times in eight professional seasons. That includes this season, when those 12 innings of rehab gets him over 100 innings.

The optimist's view: Hill is still just getting over the last remnants of that ligament replacement surgery in his right elbow. When I spoke with Jim Bowden yesterday, he indicated that the surgery - we don't have a date yet - would help clean up any scar tissue left over from that old injury.

But I have to say, I was concerned the first time Hill mentioned he had tightness in his right forearm - all the way back in spring training - and I am concerned now. Hill pitched through all this. He didn't lie about it - any time we asked him if he had a problem, he'd say something like, "Yeah, it's still there. I feel it occasionally, but it doesn't have anything to do with my results."

And for so much of the season, it didn't seem to affect him. In Hill's first 11 starts of the season, he allowed three earned runs once. In the other 10, he allowed two or fewer earned runs. That's remarkable. Also not bad: In only two of his 16 starts did he allow more than three earned runs. I can't get out of my mind what the Phillies said back in April, when he took a shutout into the ninth against them. They said then that Hill's sinker (aaaahhhh) is among the heaviest in the league, ranking with Brandon Webb's.

The pessimist's view: He will never be healthy. His elbow will continue to cause him problems. And he can't be counted on to stabilize the Nationals' rotation next year.

Again, Bowden said yesterday that Hill will "absolutely" be ready for spring training - even after two surgeries, one on the right elbow, the other on the left shoulder. I hope that's true. This team needs him.

I plan to talk to Hill today, though I'm not sure what light he can shed on it. We'll see.

Other news: We know the Nationals' interleague opponents next year. The Angels and Rangers join the Orioles in coming to the District - and wouldn't those "Short Still Stinks" banners be good for the Rangers' visit? And the Nationals visit Seattle, Minnesota and Baltimore. A bit of an odd combination. I knew the rotation would be the AL West (the same division the Nationals faced in 2005), but I don't know where the Twins came from - for the second straight year. On the flip side, this will be the first time in four seasons the Nationals don't go to Toronto, yet another split from the old Expos' days.

And, finally: Manny Acta said last night that he'd rather be in the Mets' position, two up with six games remaining. Yeah, that's true. But my goodness, the Mets seem to be crumbling. With all due respect to the Nationals - and believe me, given that I predicted they'd go 62-100, I have respect for them as they won their 70th game last night - shouldn't a team with aspirations of winning the division title, a pennant and a World Series be able to beat this crew more than once in four times?

These games the last week, I think, are going to be exciting. And I like the Church quote in the gamer about how fun this is.

I'll get back to you after I talk to Hill. I hope you chime in with your thoughts on how you feel about relying on him.

By Barry Svrluga  |  September 25, 2007; 7:33 AM ET
 
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Next: Hill speaks, with lineups added

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