- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The news (a partially torn labrum and dislocated left shoulder) didn’t sound particularly good for Shawn Hill. Fortunately, the Washington Nationals pitcher is right-handed and thus won’t need to miss a prolonged period of time before returning to the mound.

“I’m hoping maybe a week to 10 days of minimal activity, then ideally right after that start cranking it up,” Hill said yesterday after being placed on the 15-day disabled list. “I don’t know exactly what they have in mind, but I’d like to be back at the latest by the middle of June.”

The Nationals surely will miss their best starting pitcher for the next month, but that’s still a better diagnosis than the worst-case scenario the club feared. Hill’s non-throwing shoulder might be hurt, but his throwing elbow is not. An MRI taken yesterday revealed no structural damage in a right elbow that already has had ligament replacement surgery.

That was Hill’s biggest fear after he pulled himself out of Friday night’s game complaining of elbow pain. The 26-year-old, 3-3 with a 2.70 ERA in eight starts, said his elbow MRI showed “a little bit of junk in there” but said team doctors aren’t worried about that.

Actually, the elbow pain appears to have been a residual effect of the shoulder injury, which left Hill’s mechanics slightly out of whack. He hurt himself while diving into third base April 20 in Florida, then exacerbated the injury (in which the shoulder joint comes out of the socket but pops back in on its own) making an awkward catch at first base May 1 in San Diego.

Though he was able to keep pitching through it, Hill can’t help but kick himself for having his breakthrough season derailed by a freak accident that probably could have been avoided.

“Absolutely, considering I did it to myself, too,” he said. “It wasn’t like somebody ran into me. I basically did it to me, a stupid play. It’s definitely frustrating, especially because things were going pretty well. You’d like to keep on going, and now I have to shut it down and start back up.”

Cordero returns

Hill was replaced on the 25-man roster by Chad Cordero, who came off the bereavement list following a week at home in Southern California to see his dying grandmother.

Cordero said he was relieved to be back at RFK yesterday following the death early Friday of Josie Cordero, 76, from brain cancer. Chad Cordero admitted he had been preoccupied with his grandmother’s failing health, adversely affecting his performance. The right-hander blew four of his first eight save opportunities this season but sounds determined to turn his fortunes around now.

“I’m ready,” he said. “I stayed focused and everything. I came back, cleared my head and I’m really good now.”

Don’t look for Cordero to close any games for the next few days, though. Manager Manny Acta said he would ease the reliever back into his role, so Jon Rauch remains his ninth-inning pitcher for now.

Regardless, Acta said Cordero looks ready to return to his previous form.

“I could tell just by talking to him. He’s a totally different guy,” Acta said. “He’s already refreshed, and his face reflects no worries or anything. I’m sure a lot of weight has been taken off his shoulders.”

Casto demoted

Following last night’s game, the Nationals optioned outfielder Kory Casto to Class AAA Columbus and made plans to activate Jerome Williams off the 15-day DL so the right-hander could start tonight’s game at RFK.

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