Hill Ready To Return To Majors

Shawn Hill had a tase of the majors in 2004, but Tommy John surgery derailed his opportunity. Now, he's healthy and other pitchers on the Nationals' staff aren't, so he's getting another shot at the majors.

Barring a trade or any other development, Shawn Hill will be the Nationals' starting pitcher Saturday against the Dodgers. It will be the first time in almost two years that Hill has pitched in the majors.

In anticipation of the move, the Nats promoted Hill to AAA New Orleans and had him start Saturday. All went well in the outing - 5 IP, 6 H, 2 ER - and Hill is on schedule and ready to go again this Saturday for the Nationals if needed. General Manager Jim Bowden has hinted that he's shopping around for a trade that would potentially fill the starter's job for Saturday, but that doesn't appear likely.

For his part, Hill sounds like a man who is ready to return. "I've been throwing well and with a couple exceptions, have pitched pretty well, so I think I'm where I need to be," said Hill. One of those exceptions came on May 2 when Hill lasted just 2/3 of an inning against New Britain, giving up five earned runs. He bounced back and threw 8 2/3 innings in his next start, allowing just one run to Altoona. "That one night (May 2) was just a night where nothing was right for me," said Hill. "I couldn't have possibly pitched any worse. The good thing is that I was able to get past it and come back strong."

At one time, Hill was a pretty decent prospect in the Montreal Expos organization. He reached the majors during the turbulent 2004 season and even pitched one of their ill-designed "home" games in Puerto Rico. He had just nine innings of experience under his belt when he went on the DL and eventually had Tommy John surgery that cost him the entire 2005 season. His 2.64 ERA in eight starts for AA Harrisburg was actually better than a lot of people suspected he would be able to do. Generally, pitchers coming off TJS have a bit of a period of struggles before they truly start to click again. Not so true for Hill. "I felt all season that I was ready," said Hill. "I had done all of the rehab and felt pretty strong coming into the season."

Now, it will be left to see how he can do in his return to the majors. Young pitchers have actually done pretty well for the Nationals this season, especially Mike O'Connor who has found a home in the starting rotation. "I think I'm almost better prepared this time around. I have some idea of what happens and how things work there, so I'm ready for things. Plus, seeing other guys succeed makes it easier, because you don't feel like you're walking into the fire too much," laughed Hill.

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