March 5, 2009

A Hill Too Steep

The odds have been against Shawn Hill for a while now. Recurring arm injuries aren't the sort of thing that just up and go away one day. Ask John Patterson. With Hill's latest setback necessitating a visit to Dr. Andrews his road to full recovery just got that much longer. It was almost a year ago today that I posted the following:

As far as I can tell, Shawn has everthing you need to be a first-rate major league pitcher except the ability to pitch for an extended period of time. Let me be clear. I'm not ragging on Shawn Hill. I don't think he's dogging it, or faking, or exaggerating his pain. I've just reached the point where I believe the guy will never pitch 100 big league innings in a season, much less 200. Through no fault of his own, his arm simply won't let him do that.
Unfortunately, that appears to be every bit as true today as it was then. Hope dies hardest, and maybe Shawn's forearm pain is just a natural part of his getting back into a pitching program. But I doubt it. First Patterson, now Hill. Everyone please pray that Stephen Strasburg isn't next in the line of Nats' aces that never were.

It's fine for Manny Acta to say that Hill was never really in the Nats rotation plans, and it's probably even true. That doesn't change the fact that if he can't go the pitching staff looks perilously thin. Lannan, Olsen, Cabrera, Balester and Zimmermann is okay to get through a season, but of course all five won't, and the depth behind them is not pretty.

Shairon Martis has looked good so far this spring, but he needs more seasoning. The other starter "candidates" have looked awful. If Hill can't go, the team may have to pull Jason Bergmann or Garrett Mock out of the bullpen again. Which makes the already suspect bullpen that much more fragile.

I'm a firm believer that relief pitchers are the most fungible players in baseball, but you still have to have the bodies. Maybe the Nats can cobble together a bullpen from Joel Hanrahan, Saul Rivera (assuming they survive the WBC) Jesus Colome, Steven Shell, Terrell Young and two lefties yet to be identified. But somebody from the front office should probably start sending love letters to The Chief, just in case.

To add insult to injury (quite literally), Washington got blitzed 10-2 by Detroit. (Box Score) Honorary 25-man roster spots go to: nobody, they stank up the joint.

1 comment:

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