Notes: Arm trouble shuts down Hill

Notes: Arm trouble shuts down Hill

VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals right-hander Shawn Hill continues to experience right forearm tightness and has been shut down until further notice.

Hill had an MRI exam on the forearm Friday and the results were negative. However, Hill is going to Duke University in Durham, N.C., on Sunday to get a second opinion. The university is where John Patterson had surgery on his right forearm.

Last year, Hill had nerve problems in the forearm and he believed it was fixed when he has surgery in Washington D.C. last September. But Hill started to experience pain as early as a month ago. It didn't stop him, however, from participating in bullpen sessions and throwing batting practice. Hill also has been able to throw all of his pitches.

"It has gotten mildly worse," Hill said. "It's not terrible; it's there. We'll treat it day-by-day and they just want to make sure, moving forward, we are not pushing through something that should be stopped."

Asked if he may still have nerve problems in the forearm, Hill said, "Ideally, that shouldn't be an issue. I had the surgery to take care of that. I think it is always something in the back if your mind. ... That's not something I'm thinking about right now because it was taken care of in September."

During his professional career, Hill has struggled to remain healthy. His frailty over the years is one reason the Nationals acquired left-hander Odalis Perez last month.

"I feel bad for the kid," manager Manny Acta said about Hill. "That's the reason we signed the Perezes of the world. Because when people have the history that he has and Patterson has, we just couldn't come over here to this camp with those two guys penciled in [at No.] 1 and 2."

Injury report: Catcher Johnny Estrada has been shut down because he continues to feel pain in his left elbow. He had an MRI exam on Friday, and it revealed tendinitis and inflammation in the elbow.

"I'm trying to calm it down," Estrada said. "Hopefully, I can [start working out] in a couple of days. They don't want me to go backwards, and I don't want to, either."

Estrada had surgery after the 2007 season to remove a bone spur in his right elbow. Estrada also had left knee surgery and said that the knee is 100 percent.

Catcher Paul Lo Duca (left knee surgery) continues to get better. He already has hit off a tee and participated in some soft-tossing drills with the bat on Saturday. He hopes to be behind the plate during bullpen sessions by Monday.

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First baseman Dmitri Young is expected to miss a few games after injuring his left side while swinging in a batting cage on Friday.

Aaron Boone hopes to play his first game of the spring in the next couple of days. The team decided to take it slow with Boone because he is coming of left knee surgery. He has taken batting and infield practice.

"The knee is doing really well, a lot better than I had anticipated." Boone said. "I think I'm real close. We are going to play it smart for a few days. It's probably any day now."

The boss is here: Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner has been at Space Coast Stadium the past two days. While he doesn't like to make predictions, Lerner is pleased with the way the 2008 Nationals were put together by general manager Jim Bowden.

The Nationals were able to trade for Lastings Milledge and Elijah Dukes, while signing Lo Duca to a free-agent contract.

"The potential is pretty incredible. I think Jim did an amazing job this offseason," Lerner said. "If everybody plays up to their potential and we get a little luck on the pitching, you never know. We could have quite an exciting season."

Lerner also praised Bowden for the job he has done since the Lerner Group took over the club in July 2006. The group has seen Bowden dramatically improve the Minor League system.

According to Baseball America, the Nationals' farm system ranks ninth in all of baseball. Since it took over, the Lerner Group made it clear that it wants to build through the farm system.

"We are delighted. Our family thinks he has done an amazing job," Lerner said. "The record speaks for itself. The Minor League system went from 30th to ninth in Baseball America. That's what we love to hear. We are being patient. We are going to stick to our guns and build it the right way."

More from Lerner: On Friday, it was announced that the George Washington University baseball team will have the distinction of playing the first game at Nationals Park. GW will host Saint Joseph's University on March 22 at 1:05 p.m. ET, with gates scheduled to open at noon.

Lerner insisted that GW did not get to play in Nationals Park because several members of the Lerner family graduated from the school. He said the idea came from team president Stan Kasten.

"It's another way to check out the field and open a few concession stands," Lerner said. "We don't have a lot of dress rehearsal. It was neat opportunity to let the kids have a shot at playing on a big league field.

On the move: Early in the morning, local reporters were told that Katsuhiko Maekawa's work visa was denied. It is believed that legal issues in Japan were the reasons for the visa problems. But almost two hours later, Bowden said he expects Maekawa to get his visa by March 10.

Once he arrives in Florida, Maekawa will go to Minor League camp. In fact, Maekawa is no longer on the Spring Training roster.

On the tube: The Nationals will have 96 live games on MASN and an additional 65 on MASN2. Washington D.C.-area viewers will be able to watch 30 MASN-produced Nationals games on WDCA-TV My20.

MASN will kick off the 2008 season with bonus Spring Training coverage on Tuesday, when the Nationals host the Dodgers at Space Coast Stadium. On March 16, MASN will also televise the game between the Nationals and Orioles.

Coming up: Washington is on the road on Sunday for split-squad games against the Astros in Kissimmee, Fla., and the Orioles in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Both games start at 1:05 p.m. ET. Nationals right-hander Steven Shell will start against Houston right-hander Shawn Chacon. In the other game, Washington right-hander Garrett Mock will face Baltimore right-hander Jeremy Guthrie.

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