Pain free, Hill plays catch from 60 feet

Pain free, Hill plays catch from 60 feet

VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals right-hander Shawn Hill played catch on Tuesday afternoon at Space Coast Stadium and didn't report any tightness in his forearm.

Hill made 50 throws from 60 feet, approximate mound distance. He received a cortisone shot last Friday, and it appears that the inflammation is gone.

Head athletic trainer Lee Kuntz told Hill not to go all out on the throws.

"It was nice and easy," Hill said. "Lee told me not to air it out. I threw a little something on it, but not much.

"But it feels all right now," he continued, referring to his forearm. "It actually felt better after I threw. Until we crank it up, I won't be able to tell. As of today, I would say it was a good day."

Hill was slated to be the Opening Day starter on March 30 against Braves, but he doubts that he will be able to pitch because he needs several weeks to get his arm in shape. Hill has yet to appear in an exhibition game this season.

Pitching on Opening Day "would be cool and an honor," Hill said. "But at the same time, if I could get back and pitch the fifth, sixth, seventh or eighth game of the season and I could make 30-some-odd-starts, I would be more than happy. I could live without that day.

"If everything goes well in my career, maybe there's another Opening Day down the road. But if I rush back and make the Opening Day game and my arm is barking a week later, it would be no good. I have a lot to prove, so I need to stay healthy."

During his eight years in professional baseball, Hill hasn't been able to escape injury. When he was selected in the sixth round of the 2000 First-Year Player Draft, Hill already had a sore right elbow.

By the 2004 season, he needed reconstructive elbow surgery and took almost two years to recover. Hill returned to the big leagues in 2006, but he didn't pitch until after June 28 because of elbow soreness. Scar tissue was causing problems in the elbow.

Last April, after starting off strong, Hill hurt his left shoulder running the bases against the Marlins. He pitched through the injury, but he changed his mechanics and it ended up hurting his forearm. As a result, Hill missed the last three months of the season, and had to undergo offseason surgery to repair his shoulder and decompress a nerve in his right forearm.

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