- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 15, 2009

Hill finally over the hump?

VIERA, Fla. - Shawn Hill is careful not to get too excited about any progress he makes on the mound, because his entire career boasts one setback after another.

But the right-hander is cautiously optimistic he is on track to finally overcome the arm injury that derailed him the past two years.

“Everything’s fine right now,” he said. “It’s just a matter of keeping it that way.”

After pitching in pain for months, Hill had surgery in September to remove bone spurs from his throwing elbow. He has been throwing off a mound for more than a week and reports no problem, though he says the real test will be how he responds to his first few spring training starts.

The 27-year-old went 1-5 with a 5.83 ERA last season and is battling for a job at the back end of the Nationals’ rotation.

“I’m going to have to earn my spot regardless,” he said. “I have the question marks hanging over my head, which is fair. I’m fully aware of that. But if I’m healthy, I think I’ve proven in the past what I’m capable of.”

NATS come to terms WITH 23

The Nationals agreed to terms with nearly all of their players with less than three years’ big league service time, formally signing 23 members of their 40-man roster.

Among the players signed were Elijah Dukes, Jesus Flores, John Lannan, Collin Balester and Garrett Mock.

Only seven unsigned players remain: Jason Bergmann, Mike O’Connor, Alberto Gonzalez, Anderson Hernandez, Lastings Milledge, Josh Willingham and Ryan Zimmerman. Willingham and Zimmerman are awaiting arbitration hearings in the next two weeks, though each could come to terms with the team before then.

TEMPERATURE CHECK

Rick Eckstein UP

New hitting coach a hit with players and media.

Healthy players UP

Everyone says they feel great. Check back in six weeks.

Viera growth DOWN

Where’d all these people come from, and why have they taken all the parking spaces?

OVERHEARD

“I love to hit.”

- Right-hander Daniel Cabrera, who is 0-for-14 with 14 strikeouts in his career

TODAY’S WEATHER

Washington: Sunny, 46 degrees.

Viera: Scattered thunderstorms, 79 degrees.

THREE-DAY SCHEDULE

Sunday: Pitchers and catchers take physicals.

Monday: Pitchers and catchers work out, 9 a.m.

Tuesday: Position players report.

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