- The Washington Times - Friday, September 21, 2007

Washington Nationals shortstop Cristian Guzman took batting practice off left-hander Ross Detwiler during a simulated game yesterday, the latest step in Guzman’s attempt to return this season from a torn thumb ligament.

Guzman, who has been out since June 25, stood in the batter’s box for 30 pitches against Detwiler, spread out over two virtual “innings.” He made solid contact on several pitches, though he showed a little rust.

“He swung the bat OK for a guy that hasn’t seen a live pitcher in so long,” manager Manny Acta said. “It still is not a game-type of situation, but he hung in there.”

The Nationals will check on how Guzman feels today, then likely have him hit in another simulated game tomorrow before making a decision whether he will be activated off the disabled list before the end of the season.

“He’s got to be able to handle these guys that we throw out to him,” Acta said. “If I see that he can’t get the ball out of the cage, it’s not a very good indication.”

Or if he’s breaking bats left and right, as was the case yesterday when pitching coach Randy St. Claire took over for Detwiler. Wanting Guzman to face a right-hander, Acta asked St. Claire to throw as hard as he could. Perhaps not expecting the 47-year-old ex-hurler to come at him with that kind of heat, Guzman wound up getting jammed and breaking three bats.

Surgery for Hill

Right-hander Shawn Hill’s postseason surgery to repair a tear in his nonthrowing shoulder has been scheduled for Oct. 4. Orthopedist James Andrews, who performed Tommy John surgery on Hill’s elbow in 2004, will operate again.

Hill originally hurt himself April 20 in Florida when he dived awkwardly into third base, causing the shoulder to pop out of its socket briefly. He managed to continue to pitch, but he believes he tore something when he reached back to try to catch a throw from Dmitri Young on a play at first base May 1 in San Diego.

“I actually heard the stuff pop or tear, whatever you want to call it,” he said. “That’s when I really hurt it.”

Hill spent three months on the DL recovering from both the left shoulder injury and tendinitis in his right elbow that he believes was a result of added strain caused by the shoulder problem. He has been fine to pitch since returning last month, but he still has trouble hitting and reaching for balls above his head.

Once the surgery is done, Hill should be ready to resume throwing in mid-December.

Extra bases

Jason Simontacchi had surgery Tuesday to remove a bone spur in his right elbow and will need three to four months to recover. The 33-year-old pitcher had been told several weeks ago he didn’t need the procedure, but Andrews ultimately decided it was necessary. …

Michael Burgess, one of the Nationals’ supplemental picks in this summer’s draft, was named the top prospect in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League by Baseball America. The 18-year-old outfielder hit .336 with eight homers and 32 RBI in his first 128 professional at-bats.

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