- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 15, 2008

SEATTLE | Shawn Hill can be a little hard on himself at times. This is a guy who still found things to be critical about following a start last season in Philadelphia in which he carried a shutout into the ninth inning.

The Washington Nationals right-hander, though, is learning he has to tone down his perfectionist nature somewhat this season, because the condition of his throwing arm is anything but perfect.

Having battled forearm pain since spring training, Hill acknowledges that he’s a shadow of his peak self. Through his first 10 starts this year, he’s 1-3 with a 4.61 ERA.

“I’m trying not to beat myself up too much the way I normally do, because I know I’m not 100 percent,” he said. “I’m just trying to take things in stride, figure out what it is and try to correct it as quickly as I can, so I can get back to where I can be 100 percent.”

Hill labored through one of his toughest outings to date Friday night against the Seattle Mariners. He allowed a season-high 12 hits and five runs over five innings on 110 pitches. However, he earned his first win of the year, thanks to the Nationals’ early seven-run outburst.

If there is one sign of encouragement for Hill, it is that the forearm pain has subsided enough for him to throw in the bullpen between starts and work on mechanical issues.

Washington’s coaching staff is less concerned about Hill’s on-field results right now than his health.

“Obviously, he hasn’t been the dominant guy that we’ve seen in the past,” manager Manny Acta said. “But as long as he can go out there every five days, [we’re happy].

“I think a battle like he went through [Friday] night is better than having him on the DL. That’s the way we look at it.”

Hanrahan earns trust

Hill claimed his victory thanks in large part to a fine effort from Washington’s bullpen, which finished off the evening’s final four innings allowing just one run.

The Nationals did that without the services of top setup man Luis Ayala, who was unavailable because of the high number of pitches he has thrown in recent days.

Thus, Joel Hanrahan pitched the eighth inning, a sign of Acta’s newfound trust in the right-hander. Hanrahan’s last three appearances have all come in the seventh or eighth innings of close ballgames.

“I think he’s earned our confidence now,” Acta said. “We’re not afraid to add him to that list of guys that can be out there when the game is still on the line.”

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