- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 26, 2008

While right-hander Shawn Hill heads to the disabled list to rest his ailing right forearm, Tyler Clippard likely will take his place in the Washington Nationals‘ starting rotation.

Hill visited the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., on Wednesday to have his right forearm re-evaluated by Dr. Bernard Morrey and Dr. Scott Steinmann. An MRI and bone scan showed no structural damage, but the doctors recommended rest, followed by rehab and a throwing program. Manager Manny Acta said Hill still will be sent to the disabled list.

“We’re going to shut him down for a while, and then we’ll start a throwing program and pitch again,” Acta said. “[The results are] good news.”

Acta hasn’t said who will replace Hill in the starting rotation, but Clippard seems to be the favorite to make his third trip from Class AAA Columbus this season.

Clippard was scheduled to pitch Wednesday night for the Clippers, setting him up to take Hill´s place in the rotation Monday. Garrett Mock, the other recent Columbus call-up, was slated to start Thursday night. That would mean he would have to pitch for the Nationals on short rest.

And Acta ruled out Collin Balester on Wednesday. He said Washington likely won’t bring the right-hander to the majors until he can stay for an extended period of time.

Balester is younger than both Mock and Clippard, has not made his major league debut and would have to be added to the 40-man roster.

“I don´t think that´s the plan right now. When we make that decision, it´s not going to be for one start or two starts but to help get his feet wet like we did with Lannan before. And that involves roster spots and stuff like that,” Acta said. “I think that we´re leaning more toward the idea that when we bring Balester over here, it will be for an extended period of time.”

Clippard earned his fourth big league win and first for the Nationals after he allowed two runs in six innings at Seattle on June 14.

Kearns begins rehab

Right fielder Austin Kearns is headed to Class A Hagerstown for a rehab assignment, and assuming it goes well, he could return next week.

Kearns has been out since May 18 with loose bone fragments in his elbow, which he had removed last month by Cincinnati Reds medical specialist Dr. Tim Kremchek. He will begin his rehab assignment with the Suns on Thursday, heading to Class AAA Columbus from there and hoping to rejoin the Nationals when they visit the Reds next weekend.

Manager Manny Acta said Kearns likely will DH until he gets to Columbus, at which point he will start playing in the field.

“I’m trying to get out there and just work on timing,” Kearns said. “It’s been a while since I’ve been out there. I’m just trying to get some reps.”

Draft pick visits

Outfielder J.R. Higley, the Nationals’ ninth-round pick in this month’s MLB draft, was on hand as the Nationals took batting practice Wednesday. The Sacramento City College product has not signed with Washington yet but said he could do so soon.

“We’ve got to get some things worked out here in the next couple days, and hopefully we’ll come to a deal as soon as possible,” he said.

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