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Notes: Hill to get arm looked at

Notes: Hill to get arm looked at

WASHINGTON -- A day after saying that his right elbow was still sore, Nationals pitcher Shawn Hill said Saturday that he will get a third opinion. This time it will be from Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., on Monday.

Hill felt pain in the elbow again after he started playing catch in the last week. He has been on the disabled list since May 14, because of a sore left shoulder and right elbow. Hill hurt the shoulder while running the bases against the Marlins on April 20. He was able to make several more starts, but the shoulder forced him to change his mechanics and he feels the alteration of his mechanics caused the elbow injury.

"In my mind, I'm hoping it's just a little inflammation, maybe a shot will calm it down," Hill said. "It's obviously something more than just a little scar tissue that's causing the problem. I'm starting to get to the point where it's continuously there."

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Hill received a second opinion from Dr. Mark Schickendantz at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio on May 31. According to Hill, Dr. Schickendantz told him that the MRI revealed scar tissue and loose bodies in the elbow, but Dr. Schickendantz didn't feel that surgery was necessary. Hill has a history of elbow problems. After the 2004 season, Hill had elbow reconstruction and missed the entire 2005 season.

While Hill is in Alabama, Dr. Andrews also will look at his shoulder. Hill said there is still soreness in the shoulder, but it's not considered serious.

"It's still there. I don't think I could go swinging [a bat] and try to hit a home run," Hill said. "In terms of pitching, I think it'd be 100 percent. I'd be able to pitch the rest of the season right now, as long as no freak accident occurs like in San Diego. I think I would be fine."

Johnson showing improvement: Members of the Nationals' front office believe that Nick Johnson has made tremendous progress the last two weeks. On Saturday, Johnson, who is on the disabled list because of a broken right leg, took batting practice and was able to spray the ball all over the field. And, for the first time, Johnson fielded ground balls free and easy.

"I feel like I'm getting stronger," Johnson said. "Today was probably the best I've felt fielding ground balls. I was pushing it pretty good. Instead of feeling for it, I was getting into position, the regular spot that I play --- left, right, charge, slow down."

Johnson started running the bases earlier this week. Johnson acknowledged that his right hip was sore while doing the exercise.

Johnson still gave no timetable as to when he will play in a Major League rehab assignment.

For his own good: Although reliever Luis Ayala pitched well in his season debut on Friday, manager Manny Acta made it clear that the Nationals are going to be careful with the right-hander, who missed over a year because of elbow reconstruction surgery.

"We're going to handle him with care," Acta said. "Right now, for awhile, you're probably going to be seeing Luis every other day or every two days. We've just got to be careful."

Stat of the day: Nationals center fielders are hitting a combined .243 with four home runs and 22 RBIs. The best production has come from Ryan Church, who hit .282 with three home runs and 13 RBIs while playing the position.

Did you know: Infielder Felipe Lopez (2000-01), outfielder Alex Escobar (2000) and Hill (2003) played in the Futures Game.

Coming up: The Nationals play the final game of a three-game series against the Indians on Sunday afternoon at 1:35 ET. Washington right-hander Jason Simontacchi (4-5, 6.31 ERA) will face Cleveland right-hander Jake Westbrook (1-2, 7.90 ERA).

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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