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"How Is Shawn's Arm?"

Not that folks around here ever expected it, but you can cross Shawn Hill off the list of Possible Malcontents list. Absolutely. (Explanation below.)

Right now, he feels confident -- cautiously confident -- that his arm will allow for a solid season. A year ago, for instance, he threw a bullpen session four days before spring training. Hill couldn't even play catch the next day, so yeah, he knew something was wrong. This year, he's healthy.

(Yes yes, raise your eyebrows.)

Today, Hill talked about a couple topics.

First -- he acknowledged the difference between feeling healthy and actually demonstrating as much.

Second -- he said that if he's healthy, he figures he can be in the rotation.

Third -- if he's not in the rotation, he won't complain.

"I choose my words carefully here so you guys don't bury me," Hill said, cracking a smile. "Um... healthy, I think that -- as long as I go out and I'm healthy, as long as I'm throwing the way I can, I should be able to earn my spot [in the rotation] no problem. There are question marks hanging over my head, which is fair; I'm fully aware of that. But like I said, if I'm healthy, I've proven in the past -- over short spurts -- what I'm capable of."

You know, somebody said, plenty of people doubt that you can stay off the DL.

"Yeah, everybody. You guys. Teammates, probably. You know, being realistic about it, Zim, we get along great, but he is probably wondering, 'How is Shawn's arm? How is he going to hold up?' Just being realistic. Manny [Acta] is thinking the same thing. Saint (Randy St. Claire), same. They're trying to be positive about it. But there's that dark cloud hanging over my head until I get rid of it. And the only way to do that is go out, be healthy and throw."

Last topic. Would Hill ask for a trade, or even raise an objection, if he didn't make the rotation out of spring training?

"No," Hill said. "I'm not - if I had five 200-inning seasons and 15 wins per year under my belt, maybe I'd have a beef. I'm not in a position to be calling shots. I could definitely behind closed doors express my preference to become a starter, but to try to dictate what my role is, all I can do is go out and pitch and show that I'm healthy. And like I said, I think that will take care of itself. If it doesn't, there's a reason for it. Five other guys stepped up and are throwing better than me. In which case I take whatever role. But I wouldn't be doing that, that's not me. I'd kick myself in the teeth if I started doing stuff like that."

By Chico Harlan  |  February 14, 2009; 4:14 PM ET
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Next: A Much Cheaper Version Of Manny


Because, fischy, there's a great tradition around here in responding only in the latest post.

Good stuff, Chico, I've always liked Shawn Hill's personality.

Posted by: Section506 | February 14, 2009 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Still, Chico, is the 'healthy' a second-hand report or have you seen him toss and not feel it the next day? Realizing this is the first day of camp, I'll understand if the answer is the former.

Posted by: softballgirl | February 14, 2009 4:34 PM | Report abuse

I have two pitchers that I just love to watch on the Nats staff: Hill and Lannan.
When they are "on" it is a great display of pitching. Sadly, I never warmed to Perez--he seemed to manage games more than pitch. He was surprising to me in that he kept his ERA under 4.00 for so long. Balestar was also fun to watch but for probably the wrong reasons. He looked so innocent and naive on the mound. It always seemed that he would have four good innings and one bam-bam-bam-bam inning that would put 3 runs on the board in about 10 pitches. It was usually a quick 3 runs so it seemed relatively painless but in any event that is how you have a 5 plus ERA by the end of the season. Olsen and Cabrera will be starting with a near blank slate with me. This wraps up the opposite of the 506 type of analysis--all intuitive, no stats.

Posted by: driley | February 14, 2009 5:13 PM | Report abuse


Go easy on the per-day posts dude, or you'll be "toast" by April. I'll still hold you to a post-a-day minimum during the season, even with the extra-credit work in ST :>.
If Hill is truly ready to go (Manny & Randy can decide that later), the starting staff just got a little better. I'd be pleased, but won't hold my breath for it to be so.

Posted by: BinM | February 14, 2009 5:15 PM | Report abuse


Like any pitcher, when you're "on", you look good. Olsen & Lannan are "on" more than "off", and both can battle through an "off" day better than others on the staff. Cabrera & Hill can battle through 5-6 innings without their best stuff & keep it close 50% of the time. Bergmann, if "on his game", is lights-out; if not, he's 3-inning pitcher, at best. Odalis & Balester look to be 5-inning, bottom of the order SP's (although Balester is young enough to prove me wrong).

Posted by: BinM | February 14, 2009 5:32 PM | Report abuse

If Hill is healthy how does he not make it into the rotation? Seems to me that it's all or nothing with him, either he pitches pain free in which case he's our #1 starter or he struggles and we move on without him.

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | February 14, 2009 5:45 PM | Report abuse

The definition of a pitcher being "on" to me is one who has control of the situation all the time. Hill in 07 had a long streak of games where he was superior to all the batters in the lineup. Lannan had that last year as well. Bergmann was great for a 3 game stretch last year and then never came close to that again. (I actually thought Bergmann was the most victimized by horrible fielding, Belliard in particular, more than any other pitcher last year.) Bergmann's problems were mental--he seemed very fragile on the mound. Maybe the warrior look this offseason will help him in the mental part as well. Perez seemed to me to be the luckiest of pitchers, he constantly found a way out of jams--I just don't see that holding up for 09.

Posted by: driley | February 14, 2009 6:10 PM | Report abuse


If Hill's still healthy come April, he's in the starting 5; if not, he's either "Pattersoned" or placed on the 15-DL.

Posted by: BinM | February 14, 2009 6:34 PM | Report abuse

I think what Hill is hinting at is that they won't be willing to cut or risk to waivers, another starting pitcher unless they are certain that he will be healthy enough to go 20+ starts.

Could you imagine the outrage is they released Perez and then Hill starts to hurt and they have to rush Zimmermann or Martis into the rotation? Any hint of problems with the arm and it AAA or bullpen for him (or an outright release).

Posted by: estuartj | February 14, 2009 6:42 PM | Report abuse


Again, agreed for the most part. Lannan was a smart pitcher in 2008 - he found a way out of most jams when he needed to; Hill was the same in 2007 & early in 2008 (when healthy); I think Olsen may have that skill as well.

Bergmann in 2008 seemed to be the proverbial 'streak-hitter'; He either got killed beyond the 4th inning, or was nearly unhittable for the entire game. Odalis got by on guile & guts, and was effective through 5-6 innings, but no further. Balestar could be good for 5-6 innings, or as you mentioned, get "overwhelmed" in one inning; If he (& St.Claire) can find a way around that, he's good to go.

Posted by: BinM | February 14, 2009 6:52 PM | Report abuse

Nick Johnson quote from Bill (IDIOT!) Ladsen today;

"[The wrist] is not pain-free, but it's pretty close. The more I swing, the better it feels."

And from hitting coach Rick *The Randy St. Claire of hitting coaches) Ecktein regarding NJ's approach to hitting;

"when you watch the way he gets into a position to hit balls, that's what fluctuates. So what we are trying to establish is, what is his 'A' position to deliver his 'A' swing? Hitting is about feel."

I love when Bill uses quotes so you know your hearing from someone who knows what they're talking about instead of Ladsen just talking out his @ss.

"Eckstein doesn't want Johnson to alter his swing when he hits a ball to the opposite field, and he wants the location of the pitch to determine where the ball goes."

Posted by: estuartj | February 14, 2009 6:58 PM | Report abuse


With Odalis signed to a minor-league contract, the only thing the Nationals' have to fear is if he refuses the assignment to SYR.
If Hill is healthy, the OD starting five is most likely (in alpha) Balester[#5], Cabrera[#3], Hill[#4], Lannan[#2], & Olsen[#1], imo. If not, then Balester[#5], Cabrera[#3}, Lannan[#2], Olsen[#1} & Perez[#4].

Posted by: BinM | February 14, 2009 7:00 PM | Report abuse

BinM: That's my thinking, which is why I'm a bit surprised at the blog post suggesting that he might not crack the top 5, a healthy Hill is the best pitcher we've got. Of course if he isn't able to throw his best stuff before his salary becomes guaranteed, I'd cut him.

Kearns, WMP, Young, and NJ have their contracts already guaranteed, but I'd put them in the same group with Hill, sink or swim by mid-March. We could really use some value in return for these guys either in on-field production or in trades, we just can't kill ourselves by trotting them out on the field when they are not producing like we did with FLop, WMP, LoDuca, and Kearns for much of last season.

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | February 14, 2009 7:03 PM | Report abuse


As I read it, that's about as basic as it gets - "See the ball, hit the ball".

Posted by: BinM | February 14, 2009 7:03 PM | Report abuse

Can we get a post of Barry's Valentine to Hill's sinker? Chico, it's the best part of the Nats that's left for you to see. When he's healthy, it's Webb-tastic. I couldn't agree more with others that a pain-free spring is the only thing between him and the #1 or #2 spot in the rotation.

In fact, who's got odds on who takes the hill on 04/06 in Miami (aka our Opening Day starter)?

Posted by: natinbeantown | February 14, 2009 7:15 PM | Report abuse


Dameat - Think submarine (below the surface, but potentially deadly); As someone mentioned earlier, if he gets off to a good start, he could be of value to an AL team as a DH/1B. Same with WMP, but younger & a OF/DH combo instead; I doubt he'd get much interest in a trade, except as a "throw-in" at this point.

With Kearns & NJohnson, I think the team holds them both into the regular season; Nick's a very good 1B, when he can take the field, and Kearns can play all three OF slots more-than-adequately, salary be damned. If a viable trade is offered, the team listens, but there is no need to actively shop either of them at this point, imo.

Posted by: BinM | February 14, 2009 7:19 PM | Report abuse

@pb69 (redux):

Hill, if healthy, has the potential to be a #1, but grades out as a #4-#5 based on performance to date, imo. If the gods smile on him & the stars are in alignment, he might be the #2SP come October. I personally like him, but we'll see.

Posted by: BinM | February 14, 2009 7:32 PM | Report abuse

If Hill is healthy and back on his game he is teh poor man's Jake Peavy. His slider is that good and the rest of his repetoire could be on that level. He needs a lot of time on the mound to et his game up to full speed.

If all that happens he is a legit #1-#2 on almost anybodies team. Even then though numbers like that are meaningless EXCEPT in that our #4-#5 guy might get skipped now and then, but Hill is likely to get skipped fairly often anyway because they want to keep his innings down.

Posted by: estuartj | February 14, 2009 7:37 PM | Report abuse

>If Hill's still healthy come April, he's in the starting 5; if not, he's either "Pattersoned" or placed on the 15-DL.

He's never gonna be 100% healthy again. He'll probably end up at 80%, and if he's still getting people out, then what do you do? I just don't think that it's black and white with him. He may be to the point where he can throw, but he won't be busting 94 mph sinkers in on people's hands. Those days are over. If he can still get people out, you have to make room in the bullpen, imo.

Posted by: Brue | February 14, 2009 8:26 PM | Report abuse

"won't be busting 94 mph sinkers in on people's hands. Those days are over."

Are you basing that on real info or are you just making it up?

Posted by: estuartj | February 14, 2009 8:35 PM | Report abuse

Nerve damage. It's the great unknown. If it's a tendon or bone, that's one thing - it can be repaired and rehabbed, but nerves regenerate in a random fashion, and never in its original configuration. It's like Patterson, his grip was diminished because his forearm had nerve damage. Hill has a similar problem with his elbow/forearm. That doesn't mean he can't be effective if there's nothing structurally wrong after surgery, and he can maintain a decent motion. But I just don't see the ball getting there at the same rate, and with his sinker, it's all about grip and torque, and his arm slot at 3/4 arm, but mostly his powerful grip, and how he can limit the rotating action on the ball and still throw supremely hard.

Posted by: Brue | February 14, 2009 8:50 PM | Report abuse

Fact: Shawn Hill is a seven-game winner. Lifetime. He'll be Pattersoned by April 1.
Dead-arm pitchers don't re-grow healthy arms, especially ones relying on 94 mph sinkers to get outs. Hill is a mirage, a glimmering oasis in the desert, who is never going to be a No. 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 big league starter.

Posted by: jdschulz50 | February 14, 2009 8:51 PM | Report abuse

Wow, thanks jdschulz50, not many people can make Brue look optimistic.

Thank God they actually start pitching this week, much more of this conjecture and I might go cyber-postal.

Posted by: estuartj | February 14, 2009 9:13 PM | Report abuse

@ estuartj

I agree, sounds like conjecture to me. Or people practicing medicine without a license and/or without seeing the patient. In any case, whatever Shawn's pitching ultimately turns out to be, he sounds like really good people.

Posted by: Section109 | February 14, 2009 9:49 PM | Report abuse

I'm not saying Hill isn't a prince of guy and he seems like a straight shooter. It's just that he makes Nick Johnson look like Lou Gehrig. And besides, with the Lerners going to the mat over arbitration over what looked like a $250G difference, don't you think the FO would like to jettison him just to make their point?

Posted by: jdschulz50 | February 14, 2009 9:55 PM | Report abuse

No one could make Nick Johnson look like Lou Gehrig without being a quadrapleagic.

I think what gets us is guys who obviously have little or no idea what they are talking about who seem to be hoping for failure or injury. If you hate the team and the players that much go watch wrestling or something.

I do think the team took a hard line with Hill, but they did it because it makes no sense to give a guy coming of an injury like this guaranteed money. That's just good business, and Shawn Hill seems to know that, and understand where he is in his career right now so if he does suceed in making a full recovery and gets back in the rotation there won't be any hard feelings (if you want to see what that looks like check out Dan Uggla's relationship with the Marlins).

Posted by: estuartj | February 14, 2009 10:17 PM | Report abuse

Only I could spell quadrapleagic right and spell succeed wrong in the same post.

Posted by: estuartj | February 14, 2009 10:19 PM | Report abuse

After reading Chico's article about NJ and Eckstein, it gives me hope that 2009 is going to be very different for the Nats offense.

Posted by: psubman | February 14, 2009 10:21 PM | Report abuse

Amen psubman, Although I agree with the majority of posters that you don't want to mess with what works (ie changing Dunn's approach), I'm very hopeful to see what Eckstein (The Randy St. Claire of hitting coaches) can do with young guys like Zimmerman, Dukes, Milledge & Flores. All four of those guys are do for big breakout seasons and if Eckstein can have the same level of success that his predecessor had failure we should have 6 guys in the all star game!

Posted by: estuartj | February 14, 2009 10:29 PM | Report abuse

Due not do, I need some sleep...

Posted by: estuartj | February 14, 2009 10:31 PM | Report abuse

"I'm not saying Hill isn't a prince of guy and he seems like a straight shooter. It's just that he makes Nick Johnson look like Lou Gehrig. And besides, with the Lerners going to the mat over arbitration over what looked like a $250G difference, don't you think the FO would like to jettison him just to make their point?"

Posted by: jdschulz50

In a word, NO.

Posted by: driley | February 14, 2009 11:24 PM | Report abuse

Hey guys, I was wondering how you all feel about some of the following topics so I created a quick survey. I would love to see some of your perspectives. If you were the manager/general manager of the Nats, how would you address these issues? (Remember, this is what YOU would do, not what you think will happen)

1. Best option with Johnson, Dunn, Willingham, Kearns?

Trade (can be more than one):
Keep (can be more than one:
(Other option):

2. Best rotation: (John Lannan, Daniel Cabrera, Collin Balester, Jordan Zimmerman, Scott Olsen, Odalis Perez, Shawn Hill, Ross Detwiler, Jason Bergmann, Shairon Martis, other)


3. Best option for 2nd base:

a. Ronnie Belliard
b. Anderson Hernandez
c. Kory Casto
c. Orlando Hudson (lose 2nd round pick)
d. Make trade
e. Other (post idea)

4. Best line-up:

Posted by: dcsportsfan13 | February 15, 2009 2:03 AM | Report abuse

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