Notes: Hill makes start in hometown

Notes: Hill makes start in hometown

TORONTO -- Wednesday's game against the Blue Jays may be the Nationals' 45th road game of the season, but right-hander Shawn Hill will feel right at home.

Hill was born in Mississauga, Ontario, a city of 700,000 located on the shores of Lake Ontario. It's the first time the 25-year-old hurler has pitched in his native country, and he expects a large contingent of friends and family at Rogers Centre. In fact, Hill isn't quite sure how large his cheering section will be.

"I think 50 or 60 people, but my family is finalizing it and getting names," Hill said on Tuesday. "I don't know who is showing up."

Hill is excited to pitch in front of his loved ones -- in particular, some who have never seen him pitch in-person.

"My grandparents have never gotten to see me pitch before at the big-league level," he said. "They'd always hoped they'd be around for this, so they'll be here [Wednesday] to see me throw. And in that respect, I think it'll be nice that my family gets to see me throw, more than anything."

Hill grew up rooting for the Blue Jays, attending his first game in 1989. He was a fan during the team's golden years when Toronto won the World Series in 1992 and 1993. He originally played the infield in his younger years, which is why his favorite player was former Jays second baseman Roberto Alomar.

"Alomar was kind of my idol," Hill said. "He was a hard-nosed player. I remember watching the video of him and Joe Carter and they always seemed to be having a good time, so that's why I enjoyed watching him."

Hill said he doesn't feel any pressure about his "hometown" start, and said he is just trying to improve upon his last start. He allowed eight runs on 12 hits in 5 2/3 innings to Boston in a 9-3 Washington loss. It was Hill's least effective outing of the season, and his first non-quality start out of five.

"A lot of the pitches they were getting me on, weren't that bad," Hill said. "If you miss by a little bit, they're going to get you. I'd like to come out and have a good game in order to get that out of my memory."

Stanton and Ward back on board: Reliever Mike Stanton and utilityman Daryl Ward were with the team on Wednesday after missing Tuesday game due to flight problems.

The two players had asked to fly separately with the team due to the fact that they live on the East Coast and the Nationals had an off-day on Monday. Players have commonly flown separately from the team throughout the season, but this latest incident has led Washington manager Frank Robinson to enact a new team rule that all players must fly together on the team charter.

"It's not anything they did wrong," Robinson said. "They can't control the weather, they can't control cancelled flights, they can't control mechanical problems. But, that is the drawback of traveling independent of the ballclub. Their responsibility, if they have permission to travel later, is they must be here for the game."

Vidro at DH: Jose Vidro made his 12th career start at designated hitter for Wednesday's game. Robinson said he wanted to give the regular second baseman a chance to rest his sore knees and avoid the sometimes strenuous artificial surface of Rogers Centre.

Vidro entered the game hitting .310 this season, but his power numbers have fallen off in recent weeks. He has only one home run and four RBIs in his last 22 games. Despite the one-game move to DH, Robinson doesn't believe Vidro's knees are anything more than banged up or that a more serious injury is sapping his power.

"He tells us he's healthy, and I take him at his word," Robinson said. "He's hitting off of his front leg and you can't drive the ball consistently like that."

Did you know?: Washington starters have thrown quality starts in the last four games. This is the team's longest such streak since Aug. 12-15.

Stat of the day: Alfonso Soriano enters Wednesday's game with 999 career hits. He delivered his 100th hit against the Jays in Tuesday's game -- Soriano's highest total against any opponent.

Coming up: Right-hander John Patterson (1-1, 3.41 ERA) takes the hill for the Nationals against Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay (9-2, 3.07 ERA) in the finale of the three-game set on Thursday. The game starts at 7:07 p.m. ET at Toronto's Rogers Centre.

Mark Polishukis an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.