- The Washington Times - Monday, May 29, 2006

The young arms on the Washington Nationals pitching staff are making an impression.

First it was left-hander Mike O’Connor. Then it was relievers Santiago Ramirez and Saul Rivera. On Saturday, 25-year-old right-hander Shawn Hill allowed one run on five hits in seven innings in his first start since 2004.

Meanwhile, the veterans have responded as well. For the first time this season, the team appears to have a rejuvenated pitching staff with a set rotation.

“A lot of times when people start pitching well, the other guys start pitching well,” said O’Connor, who is 2-2 with a 2.65 ERA in six starts. “I don’t know if it motivates guys or what. It gets into the whole team. You can tell the difference.”

Rivera has allowed one hit and no runs in three appearances. Ramirez has allowed just one run in three games. Their arrival comes with seven Nationals pitchers on either the 15- or 60-day disabled list.

“[The injured pitchers] are going to be coming back at some point in time, too,” Hill said. “That’s why you have to try to make a good impression while you’re here.”

Vento strong in start

Mike Vento went 2-for-3 with one RBI and a run scored in his first major league start. Vento, who played right field, had his first career hit on an RBI single to left in the third inning.

The Nationals called up Vento on Saturday from Class AAA New Orleans, where he led the Pacific Coast League with a .375 batting average, after placing right fielder Jose Guillen on the 15-day DL.

Extra bases

Backup catcher Matt LeCroy, who committed two throwing errors and allowed seven stolen bases Thursday, received a cortisone injection yesterday in his sore right elbow. If LeCroy’s elbow doesn’t improve today, he will have an MRI. … Right-hander Zach Day will have orthopedic surgeon James Andrews examine his throwing shoulder Wednesday in Birmingham, Ala., before a determination is made on surgery. Day is on the 60-day DL with tendinitis. … The Nationals, who have the 15th and 22nd selections overall in the June 6 draft, worked out 10 prospective picks at RFK Stadium after the game. Nine of them were from high school teams, including possible top-10 picks third baseman/outfielder Billy Rowell of Bishop Eustace Prep (New Jersey), first baseman Chris Parmelee of Chino Hills (Calif.); and third baseman Chris Marrero of Edward Pace (Fla.).

Got a question about the Nats? Mark Zuckerman has the answers. To

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