- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 27, 2008

VIERA, Fla. — When Shawn Hill’s rest between batting practice pitching sessions was extended from one day to two, questions arose whether the injury-plagued right-hander again was having arm trouble.

If Hill’s performance yesterday is any indication, the answer is no.

Hill — who had some tightness in his right forearm — put on an impressive performance in his batting practice session with good pop in his fastball. He didn’t appear to show any discomfort while pitching.

“I got a ways to go with my change-up,” Hill said. “I am not concerned about it, but I am not sharp-sharp yet. It takes a little while to get loose, but once I get loose and get cranked up and get it going, it’s fine. We still have four or five weeks, so there is plenty of time.”

Manager Manny Acta considered the tightness Hill has experienced normal to him.

“He doesn’t remember a time right now where he felt completely 100 percent,” Acta said.

Hill, 26, has shown talent worthy of a No. 1 or 2 starter despite a history of arm problems. He missed all of 2005 with Tommy John surgery. Last year, he made 16 starts and was sidelined with a torn labrum in his left shoulder and nerve problems in his right forearm.

Hill is scheduled to make his first outing next Wednesday against the St. Louis Cardinals in Jupiter, Fla.

Pitching schedule

Manny Acta has mapped out his pitching schedule for the first five exhibition games. It is as follows:

Today against Florida: Matt Chico, Garrett Mock, Rob Bell, Joel Hanrahan, Brian Sanches and Chris Schroder.

Tomorrow against Georgetown: Jason Bergmann, Josh Smoker and Collin Balester.

Friday against Florida: Tyler Clippard, Jason Stanford and Mike Bascik.

Saturday against Baltimore: John Patterson, Dennis Tankersley, Steven Shell, Ray King, Jon Rauch and Chad Cordero.

Sunday against Baltimore (split-squad game): John Lannan, Mike O’Connor and Hanrahan.

Sunday against Houston (split-squad game): Mock, Bell and Bascik.

Fewer at-bats

One change that shows this year’s Nationals are more established than last year’s semi-tryout camp — fewer at-bats for a number of players.

“We are probably going to cut down a little bit on certain guys’ at-bats this year,” manager Manny Acta said.

One of them will be Ryan Zimmerman, who is not making the trip tonight to Jupiter to play the Marlins in the first exhibition game.

“Zimmerman over the last couple of years has gotten over 100 at bats in spring training,” Acta said. “He is very young. He is ready to go right now. I don’t think he needs as many at bats. … I don’t seem him playing as much as he has played in the last two years in spring training.”

Acta also said the practice is to try to get the veteran players like Zimmerman and others into home games in consideration of the local fans.

“A lot of times we don’t bring our main guys on the road,” Acta said. “Our fans here deserve to see those guys.”

Top prospects

Baseball America named three Nationals prospects among its top 100 — first baseman Chris Marrero 27th, pitcher Ross Detwiler 51st and pitcher Collin Balester 86th.

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