- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 18, 2008

BALTIMORE — Washington Nationals right-hander Shawn Hill received a cortisone shot and had fluid drained from his throwing elbow yesterday morning and said he may miss his next scheduled start.

Hill, who after losing Friday night to the Baltimore Orioles said his ailing forearm continued to cause him trouble, said yesterday the back of his elbow has “been bothering me a little bit.”

“Basically, it’s compensation for the forearm,” he said. “It’s nothing major, but that combined with the forearm, I just haven’t been able to throw in between [starts]. I’ve got to give it some time off.”

Hill hoped to make it through his next scheduled start Wednesday against the Philadelphia Phillies before needing the cortisone shot but said he was in enough pain following this latest outing that it became necessary. The effects of the shot will prevent him from doing anything for the next few days, and that could keep him from making his start.

“It will be their decision,” he said. “They might want to bump me for precaution. … They may not want to do it for the sake of it, but I plan on going Wednesday.”

Even if he can pitch as planned, Hill (0-1 with a 4.08 ERA in six starts) faces an uphill challenge. His mysterious forearm pain (which he believes is from scar tissue from surgery he had during the offseason) still prevents him from throwing in between outings. Hill, who has struggled to throw his breaking balls with any consistency, can’t work on his mechanics in the bullpen.

That said, the 26-year-old remains hopeful he can overcome the pain and make it through the season without another stint on the disabled list.

“Right now, I’m able to pitch,” he said. “I’m not able to pitch the way I want to. I’m able to throw. If I can just get just a notch above what I’m feeling right now … it’s not going to be fun. I’m not going to enjoy having to battle through the entire season, but I’ll get through it.”

Chico makes strides

If Hill doesn’t start Wednesday, a logical candidate to replace him would be Matt Chico, who has made some positive strides since moving to the bullpen two weeks ago.

The left-hander tossed 21/3 scoreless innings of relief Friday night and now has a 1.42 ERA in three overall bullpen appearances, a boost to his psyche after going 0-5 as a starter.

“I don’t think my confidence really dropped,” he said. “But it’s definitely comforting to know that I’ve gone out there and been successful.”

The Nationals organization still considers Chico a starter in the long term and has no plans to change that position at this point.

“In a perfect world, we would love to have him starting in [Class AAA] right now,” manager Manny Acta said. “A lot of guys have had success in that role, but it’s just too early for us to tab him as a bullpen guy. In his defense, he came up from [Class AA] to start at the big league level last year. One year later, we can’t just push him aside and think he can’t start.”

Flores bumped up

Catcher Jesus Flores, who carried a .393 average into last night’s game, hit sixth for the first time. The move shifted all three Washington outfielders (Lastings Milledge, Austin Kearns and Wily Mo Pena) to the rear of Acta’s starting lineup.

“He’s had quality at-bats in almost every outing out there that he’s had,” Acta said of Flores, who has typically hit seventh or eighth. “We feel very comfortable right now with him, especially against left-handed pitchers. And with our offense struggling, why not put him in there in the middle of the lineup?”



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