- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 3, 2008

Washington Nationals right-hander Shawn Hill could pitch again with the team this season, possibly as early as Sept. 1, if the throwing program he has begun to strengthen his right forearm goes according to plan.

Hill, who went on the disabled list June 26 with a right forearm strain, has been hampered by arm trouble since September, when he had surgery to decompress the radial nerve on his right arm.

He was at Nationals Park on Saturday and said though he hasn’t thrown with much intensity, he isn’t feeling any pain.

“It felt much better just this week throwing than it did when I was here before,” Hill said. “The day-to-day stuff, I don’t feel it now, where I did before. I might wake up on Monday, when I go play catch, and it might kill me. I have no idea. I’m just kind of taking it day-by-day. But so far, I’d say it’s very positive.”

The 27-year-old is 1-5 with a 5.83 ERA in 12 starts this season. Hill’s delivery gives his fastball a natural sinking motion, and the forearm pain has prevented him from doing that effectively most of the year. It also stopped him from throwing between starts, and he had little time to work on his off-speed pitches as a result.

“I need to get my arm back to throwing the way it used to,” Hill said. “Basically just long toss is the biggest thing for me at this point.”

Hill, who has been plagued with injuries much of his career, posted a 3.42 ERA in 16 starts last season, giving the Nationals hope he could turn into their staff ace if he could stay healthy.

They’re now cautiously optimistic that he’s on the way to shedding the arm troubles that, to this point, have prevented him from fulfilling those expectations.

“He’s begun his throwing program with no complaints,” manager Manny Acta said. “We’re shooting to have him pitch here before the end of the year.”

Tardy Dukes scratched

Left fielder Elijah Dukes, who returned from a right knee injury on Friday night, was scheduled to bat third for the Nationals on Saturday night but was scratched for Ryan Langerhans when the team issued a new lineup about 4:50 p.m.

Dukes entered the Nationals’ clubhouse at 4:20 p.m., five minutes after position players were supposed to be on the field stretching.

He went 2-for-4 with two RBI in a 5-2 Nationals win Friday.

Guzman, Zimmerman still out

Both shortstop Cristian Guzman and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman remained out of the lineup Saturday night, Guzman with a left thumb injury and Zimmerman with a right hand bruise.

Zimmerman took infield practice before Saturday’s game and was able to throw to first with a heavily wrapped hand, which was hit by a pitch Thursday night.

“He’s still pretty swelled up, so he’s not [swinging] a bat yet,” Acta said.

Guzman, who has been playing with a left thumb injury since the beginning of last month, was able to swing a bat Friday but was still bothered by the injury, Acta said.

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