- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 26, 2007

NEW YORK — Justin Maxwell felt he was physically and mentally ready to play in the major leagues when he got the call three weeks ago. But the Washington Nationals rookie outfielder admits he’s still a little awestruck from playing in the bright lights of a pennant race one month removed from Class A Potomac.

“That’s the hardest part, just trying to keep the adrenaline down and stay relaxed,” he said. “I was asking a bunch of guys who have played for a while how long it took them to get comfortable. They all say it took a while, but once they learned to calm down, they started playing a lot better. I’m just trying to take what they say and try to use it to help me out.”

Maxwell certainly hasn’t looked spooked by the spotlight. Manager Manny Acta gave the young outfielder his third straight start last night, and Maxwell responded by homering off Tom Glavine in the fourth inning (his second homer in 17 big league at-bats).

Acta at first was reluctant to play the 24-year-old in games that have so much bearing on the down-to-the-wire NL East race between the Mets and Phillies. But the manager said that Maxwell, despite some obvious flaws expected of a player so young, has proved he can handle the situation.

“He has looked comfortable,” Acta said. “He’s still an A-ball hitter. When guys make good pitches on him, they’re going to get him out, and he’s going to look awkward at times because of his age and his experience. But we like the energy he has. I agree … with what [general manager Jim] Bowden has said about his makeup. I won’t call it ‘off the charts,’ but it’s a very good makeup. I think that helps him.”

Hill’s surgery today

Shawn Hill will have surgery this afternoon to decompress the radial nerve in his right forearm and clean out his throwing elbow.

The procedure, which will be performed at Sibley Hospital by Nationals orthopedist Ben Shaffer and specialist Richard Barth, will be followed two weeks later by another procedure to repair a tear in Hill’s left shoulder.

Hill, who spent three months on the disabled list in the middle of the season because of the shoulder and elbow injuries, also had been dealing with forearm tightness since spring training. He managed to pitch through that ailment, but when he noticed more fatigue than usual in his arm following his last start, he informed team officials.

“All in all, I just figured something should be done,” he said yesterday by phone.

Hill, who went 4-5 with a 3.42 ERA in 16 starts, hoped to make his final appearance of the year tonight against the Mets but realized it wasn’t worth the risk.

“The rational, logical thing is to get it taken care of and not push it to the point where I might hurt the team or I might hurt myself,” he said. “I don’t think that would have happened. But there was a lot less to gain from going out there and throwing than if I just shut it down now.”

Rotation change

Acta said he will skip struggling right-hander Joel Hanrahan’s turn in the rotation and start Tim Redding, Matt Chico and Jason Bergmann in this weekend’s final series at Philadelphia.

Hanrahan, whose ERA is up to 6.02, will be available to pitch out of the bullpen for the rest of the week.

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