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An Unseen Comeback For The Ages

It will be one of the harder challenges of my reportorial career to inform the world of Washington's 5-4 comeback this afternoon. As the Nats scored the final four runs, the Fourth Estate was barricaded in the home clubhouse, waiting for (and then interviewing) Washington starter Shairon Martis.

There wasn't even a faint buzz from the field. But all of a sudden, the clubhouse attendant came in with the update... which was... Game over. Nats win, Nats win.

This much we know: In the eighth inning, with the Nats down 4-1, Josh Willingham hit a two-run homer. He's gotten plenty of at bats in the last few days -- he even DH'd last night -- and is starting to heat up, though he's traditionally a bad hitter in spring training.

Because of the Willingham two-run job, the Nats were down just one entering the ninth. Lefty Wilfrido Perez was handling the save duties for the O's.

With two outs, and a runner on, Anderson Hernandez tripled to tie the game.

The next batter, Albert Gonzalez, grounded one to second base, forcing Baltimore's Justin Turner to his left. A tough play, but it should have been the final out. Instead, he threw wide of the bag. Hernandez scored. Turner was charged with an error.

The Nats are now 9-8-2 in the Grapefruit League.

By Chico Harlan  |  March 19, 2009; 3:50 PM ET
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Next: Nats Cut Six, Including The GBE



For argument's sake, let's say the Nats didn't release Hill. And let's say it's the very end of ST and Hill is till on the team. Chances are at that time, he would have pitched, what, 10 innings tops if he remained "healthy."

So, the regular season is about to start, what do you do with Shawn Hill? Is he on the 25-man active roster? At that point, he won't be able to go more than 4 or 5 innings when his turn comes up in the rotation since he hasn't been stretched out enough in ST. Do you skip his turn, hoping that by the end of April he'll be ready to go (basically playing with 24 men for the first few weeks of the season)?

Do you DL him? He would either have to be on the 15-day (probably not enough time for him to be completely ready to go), or the 60-day (too long to wait to see if he'll be ready).

You can't have him start the season in AAA because he's out of options, so they would have to DFA him and try to sneak him through waivers, and chances are someone would swoop in and pick him up.

By releasing him, the Nats have in essence allowed Hill to choose whatever club he wants to sign with (assuming more than one club contacts him).

So, if they don't release Hill, where would you have him start the season?

Posted by: erocks33 | March 19, 2009 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Way to go, guys!

Posted by: PattyinSJ | March 19, 2009 4:05 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: rachel216 | March 19, 2009 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Nice "blind" summary, Chico. So would that make it a seeing eye comeback?

Atta team, Nats!

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 19, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Good points, erocks33. Hill, while no cancer, certainly was a dilemma and a thorough distraction. He's the pitching equivalent of Waiting for Godot...except he never arrived. On a different note, when does Willingham move up the food chain from 4th/5th outfielder to either starting RF or someplace else? He's a professional hitter, a big improvement over Austin "K-looking" Kearns. Is Kearns the next to get Pattersoned? I wouldn't bet against it. He looked awful Wednesday night on TV, completely baffled by inside fastballs.

Posted by: jdschulz50 | March 19, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone know where I can find the highlights of this game?

Posted by: rachel216 | March 19, 2009 4:13 PM | Report abuse

"So, if they don't release Hill, where would you have him start the season?"

First, you wait and see where he is at when they break to go north (which we now will never know). If he is going 5 innings at that point, you use him. If not, then, yes, you can DL him.

"He would either have to be on the 15-day (probably not enough time for him to be completely ready to go)..."

There is no way of knowing this. It could be.

"...or the 60-day (too long to wait to see if he'll be ready)."

WHY? Again, nothing is lost if he doesn't work out.

Hell, putting him in the bullpen for a month would be better than what they did. Again, as Chico said yesterday, the timing of this move was based on the finances involved. That is the disappointing part.

Despite some fans' optimism, this is far from a team that "no longer has projects." Huh?! We might have three starters 23 or younger. We have a closer who has never done it for even half of a season. We will have a 2nd basemen who was demoted the last time a team tried to start him. We have a CF who can't take correct routes or hit cutoff men. No, no projects here.

Posted by: kfisher32 | March 19, 2009 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Not sure, rachel. When the games are televised, they have clips on the team site and the MASN site during the regular season. But this one wasn't on tv and it's a ST game to boot. If you're local, you might hear a clip of a game call during a WTOP radio sports segment (generally at 15 minutes before and after the hour).

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 19, 2009 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Alberto Gonzalez, not Albert.

Posted by: wblake04 | March 19, 2009 4:32 PM | Report abuse

I really like Shawn Hill. I was rooting hard for his success. I like the way he conducts himself. He seems like a real professional.

The Nats made the right move.

A guy who played for me when I was a HS coach pitched for a time in the Indians' organization. After his first year, I asked him how he thought they liked him. He replied, "Coach, the only thing they wanted any of us first year guys to do was show them that we could last a year without getting hurt. They said that if we can't do that, we are useless to them. They didn't really care about our ERAs and stuff like that."

This story has always stuck with me and of course applies to Hill. It's fine that he has great stuff, but as Rizzo pointed out, you cannot rely on him to be healthy. I cannot think of a pitcher who spent 3 or 4 years injured and then came back to be productive. The pitching arm just isn't built like that. It's a shame for Hill, seemingly a quality guy - but it's reality.


Posted by: db423 | March 19, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

In the clubhouse? Chico, I know you are not an old head like Barry but you've gotta learn it ain't over 'til its over!

Posted by: Section314 | March 19, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

@db423: For Hill's sake, I hope you are wrong. For my sake, I hope you are right, because I will be sick to see him putting up a sub-4 ERA for some other team.

Posted by: kfisher32 | March 19, 2009 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Always fun to beat the O's, even if it's just ST.

Posted by: SkinsMasonNats | March 19, 2009 4:50 PM | Report abuse

"@nunof1: I take it you will not back up your claim, then? I have asked you twice (why you believe they would only have had to pay him ~190K if they cut him at the end of ST, which is contrary to Chico)."

I already said a thread or two ago that I saw that several places on the Internet today. Doesn't mean it's right, doesn't mean it's wrong. Could be either. You decide. But as for me being "contrary to Chico", he didn't say anything one way or the other relative to what I said, so how am I contrary to him?

Bottom line, the Nats saved some money by cutting Hill yesterday that they wouldn't have saved by cutting WMP. But they needed to open up a roster space, and both WMP and Hill would have been cut before the end of ST anyway. (No way would he be throwing five innings every five days in two weeks when he can only throw one inning every other week now. You're delusional if you think that had a snowball's chance in hell of happening.) So your outrage over them cutting Hill to save a few bucks is misguided at best.

Posted by: nunof1 | March 19, 2009 5:06 PM | Report abuse


I am totally with your analysis. Pete's sake, people keep waiting on Mark Prior to get it back. Kerry Wood had to become a reliever, but always seems ready to break.

Shawn Hill may make it. Somebody will take a chance on him, just like they did with Jon Patterson. We felt bad when Texas took him, but in the end he crapped out, too broken to play.

I think the team made a defensible move, even if later Hill comes back. I think it is much more likely that he will try, make a major league team for parts of seasons, and never fulfill his potential. Because of my fondness for the guy, I hope he at least has a part of a season that gets him a $1M contract that sticks, so he can start anew with a nest egg.

I just don't think the kid has the durability.


Posted by: kevincostello | March 19, 2009 6:17 PM | Report abuse

Good to see that Martis had a respectable outing.

Posted by: daltonwc53 | March 19, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse

Do you guys know where we can see full Spring Training stats on individual players?

Posted by: daltonwc53 | March 19, 2009 6:38 PM | Report abuse

Sortable Nats spring training stats are here.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 19, 2009 7:26 PM | Report abuse

A little over-the-top with your headline there, eh Chico?

No Spring Training game, however impressive, is a game "for the ages." It's spring training folks, pre-season warm-ups . . . nobody cares about the field goals kicked at 11:30 in the morning, or the three-pointers shot at practice.

Call me in April.

Posted by: chrisduckworth | March 19, 2009 8:51 PM | Report abuse

I think somebody's snarkdar is a quart low ...

Posted by: CEvansJr | March 19, 2009 9:51 PM | Report abuse

uh, yeah

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 19, 2009 10:13 PM | Report abuse

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