- The Washington Times - Monday, February 26, 2007

VIERA, Fla. — Washington Nationals manager Manny Acta revealed his starting rotation for this week’s intrasquad and exhibition games, and while plenty can change over the next month, a few things are coming into focus.

For example, the Nationals are pretty high on Shawn Hill, enough to give the 25-year-old right-hander the nod for Friday’s Grapefruit League opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“I like what I’ve seen in the past,” Acta said of Hill, who went 1-3 with a 4.66 ERA in six starts last season after recovering from major elbow surgery.

Plenty of people around Nationals camp this spring like what they see, too. Hill is fully healthy for the first time in his career and is feeling more comfortable each time he takes the mound.

That said, he’s being careful not to get too excited about his spring debut assignment … and what that might mean about his eventual place in Washington’s Opening Day rotation.

“The coaches know what’s going on with the rotation, how it’s set up and all that stuff. We have no idea,” he said. “There might be something behind it, and it might be strictly a scheduling thing. It’s kind of neat, but I don’t want to look too much into the importance of it.”

Scheduling was a factor in Acta naming John Patterson his starter for Saturday’s game against the Baltimore Orioles. The presumed ace of the staff, Patterson will be on a five-day routine through the rest of camp and will be in line to start Opening Day at RFK Stadium.

Before the Grapefruit League kicks off, though, the Nationals will play a pair of intrasquad games. Acta said right-hander Joel Hanrahan will start against lefty Matt Chico tomorrow, with Beltran Perez and Jason Bergmann coming on in relief. Tim Redding and Jerome Williams get the start Wednesday, with Jason Simontacchi and Colby Lewis pitching out of the bullpen.

All starters will be limited to two innings or 45 pitches their first time out.

Guzman takes a break

Shortstop Cristian Guzman, still recovering from last season’s shoulder surgery, did not throw at all during yesterday’s workout.

Guzman’s limited participation was planned. As part of his rehabilitation program, he’s allowed to throw for two consecutive days, then take one day off.

The Nationals also will watch him closely once the exhibition season starts. Guzman is slated to serve as designated hitter for each of the club’s first three games and won’t see any action in the field until next week.

Extra bases

The Dodgers granted Washington’s request to use a DH in Friday’s game, even though both teams play in the National League. Acta wants to get as many at-bats as possible from his players this early in camp and plans to employ a DH several more times during the first week of exhibition play. …

Acta, on how he feels about finally starting games: “As anxious as everybody else. We want to see if the enthusiasm continues and we can put into practice what we’ve been preaching here.”

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