- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 28, 2009

Hill takes it slow and steady

VIERA, Fla. - Shawn Hill spent 17 minutes in the bullpen warming up for his start Friday afternoon. He spent six minutes dissecting it to reporters afterward.

In between, the Washington right-hander spent only three minutes on the mound pitching in game competition.

Restricted to just one inning by the Nationals’ coaching staff, which wants to bring him along slowly this spring, Hill looked and felt comfortable against the Astros. He faced four batters, walking one, and wound up needing only 12 pitches to complete his requisite work for the day.

“I’d like to go out there and throw seven innings,” he said. “But knowing that it’s a process and knowing it’s a long spring training, I’m OK with that too.”

Sidelined by injuries each of the last three seasons, Hill was cautiously optimistic after his first appearance in eight months. He said he feels no pain in his elbow or forearm, and his command was as well as could be expected given the long layoff.

Manager Manny Acta said the club will “baby” Hill this spring, having him pitch one fewer inning each time out than the rest of his rotation mates. Hill, who made only 12 starts last year before elbow pain shut his season down, is happy to go along with the plan as long as he can pitch.

“Last year when I was pitching, I was in quite a bit of pain,” he said. “To be able to go out and throw and feel better about it is exciting itself.”

NATIONALS 2, ASTROS 0

Washington’s pitching staff continues to dominate early this spring. Hill combined with Gustavo Chacin, Marco Estrada, Jason Bergmann, Saul Rivera and Joel Hanrahan on a two-hit shutout of Houston.

Nationals starters have yet to allow a run in three games, and the overall staff ERA is 2.42.

Jesus Flores and Cristian Guzman provided all the offense with back-to-back RBI hits in the second.

- Mark Zuckerman

TEMPERATURE CHECK

THE WAIT [DOWN]

Everyone on pins and needles here

SHAWN HILL [ SIDEWAYS ]

Felt good, but how much can you tell from 12 pitches?

AUSTIN KEARNS [DOWN]

Blister on left hand sidelines right fielder

QUOTABLE

“If you count what he had at Triple-A and up here and the season down in the Dominican, it was over 800 [at-bats]. So we decided to take it easy.”

- Manny Acta on overworked second baseman Anderson Hernandez, who won’t make his spring debut until Tuesday

SATURDAY’S WEATHER

Washington: Afternoon showers, 44 degrees

Viera: Partly cloudy, 81 degrees

THREE-DAY SCHEDULE

Saturday: vs. Cardinals in Jupiter, 1 p.m.

Sunday: vs. Orioles in Viera, 1 p.m.

Monday: Off

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