PHOENIX — Shawn Hill will return to the Washington Nationals’ rotation this week.
One day after announcing the right-hander would make one more rehab start in the minor leagues before coming off the disabled list, Nationals general manager Jim Bowden said he changed his mind. Hill now will start Tuesday against the Philadelphia Phillies at RFK Stadium, his first major league outing since May 11.
“I literally changed my mind,” said Bowden, who had cited Hill’s struggles with his secondary pitches as reason to delay his return by a week. “I thought about it overnight, and after thoroughly looking at it and the way he pitched the last time out, he might not be as crisp and 100 percent as we’d like, [but] I think he’s still our best pitcher. He deserves to take the mound Tuesday in a pennant race.”
Hill, 26, was emerging as Washington’s ace after going 3-3 with a 2.70 ERA in eight starts to open the season. But a dislocated left shoulder suffered while on the bases put a strain on his surgically repaired right elbow, landing him on the 15-day disabled list in mid-May.
He has spent the last three months working his way back and following a five-inning start Thursday for Class AAA Columbus felt he was ready to return. His insistence helped Bowden make the decision.
“The reality is, he’s our best starting pitching prospect that’s in the big leagues,” Bowden said. “I don’t want to watch him throw a shutout Tuesday and then say he should have thrown it here. This way, I can’t say that.”
Hill’s return will cause the Nationals to reconfigure their rotation for the coming week. Right-handers Tim Redding and Joel Hanrahan each will be bumped back a day to start against the Phillies on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.
How that affects Matt Chico remains to be seen. The rookie left-hander labored through a five-inning outing Friday night against the Diamondbacks, issuing six walks. He has a 6.25 ERA in six starts since the All-Star break.
The Nationals plan to announce a corresponding roster move after today’s series finale in Arizona to make space for Hill.
No Young this weekend
Not wanting to take a chance on Dmitri Young re-injuring his left hamstring, the Nationals decided to give the veteran first baseman the rest of the weekend off.
Young hasn’t played since feeling tightness in his leg running out of the batter’s box in the first inning Wednesday in San Francisco. He originally hoped to be back in the lineup within a day or two, but manager Manny Acta said it wasn’t worth the risk.
“It’s not serious, but we’re going to take some precautions with him,” Acta said. “So we’re not going to play him this series. And we have a day off Monday, so he’ll be ready to go on Tuesday.”
Young, the sixth-leading hitter in the National League with a .333 average, remains available to pinch-hit but only in a “must-win” situation, according to Acta.
Robert Fick again started in his place at first base last night.