- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 18, 2009

— The Nationals released Shawn Hill on Wednesday, deciding to part ways with the oft-injured right-hander because of the uncertainty that seems to forever surround his pitching career.

Hill, 27, was shut down earlier this spring after a recurrence of forearm pain that derailed much of his 2008 season. But he returned to the mound Monday and threw a scoreless inning against the Marlins, striking out two batters, and then said his arm felt as good as it has in three years.

The Nationals, though, grew weary of the constant uncertainty about Hill’s arm and decided it made sense to cut ties. Though he won his arbitration case against the club last month and was awarded $750,000, this move requires the Nationals to pay only a fraction of that full salary, about $125,000.

“The main reason behind Shawn being released is just the uncertainty that his track record brings to the clubhouse every day,” acting general manager Mike Rizzo said. “It’s hard to pencil him into the rotation every fifth day when you’re not sure what you’ve got when he gets to the ballpark.”

Manager Manny Acta, who has known Hill since he first came up with the Montreal Expos in 2004, called this move “probably the toughest I’ve had to make here. He’s the type of guy every manager wishes to have 20 of him.” Acta said Hill, a Canada native who was drafted by the Expos in 2000, took the news especially hard.

Hill has been placed on waivers, meaning every other club will have an opportunity to claim him and take on his contract. It’s believed a handful of teams — including the Mets, Marlins and Blue Jays — could have interest in him. If Hill goes unclaimed, the Nationals can outright him to Class AAA Syracuse.

Hill’s departure clears up Washington’s starting rotation considerably. Three starters are already assured of jobs: John Lannan (who Acta formally named his Opening Day starter), Scott Olsen and Daniel Cabrera. The other two jobs remain up for grabs, though rookie right-hander Jordan Zimmermann appears to have a leg up for one of the spots. The final job will likely come down to either Collin Balester or Shairon Martis, though the Nationals won’t need a fifth starter for the season’s first two weeks because of scheduled off-days.

Meanwhile, the Nationals agreed to terms today with left-hander Joe Beimel on a one-year, $2 million contract, giving the club the veteran reliever it had been seeking since the end of last season.

Acta didn’t hesitate to name Beimel, 31, his top setup man for closer Joel Hanrahan, saying: “I have my eighth inning guy.”

Despite solid numbers last season with the Dodgers — 5-1, 2.02 ERA in 71 appearances — Beimel remained on the open market along with several other veteran relievers who have been victims of a tough economy. Rizzo said the Nationals had been interested in him for more than a month, though talks heated up in the last couple of weeks. The Rockies, A’s and Padres also reportedly shown interest in Beimel.

Rizzo said Beimel is due to report to Viera tomorrow to undergo a physical and should be in uniform soon after that.

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