WASHINGTON (AP) -Shawn Hill hoped to be Washington's opening day starter this season. Once he was on the 15-day disabled list, he targeted this Sunday for his 2008 Nationals debut.
Well, he will be pitching Sunday, but for Triple-A Columbus, making at least one more rehab appearance in the minor leagues as he works his way back from a bothersome right forearm.
``I'd like to start here Sunday, but I understand why they want to do it this way,'' Hill said Wednesday in the home clubhouse at Nationals Park. ``I can still reach 30 starts if I stay healthy.''
The right-hander started for Class-A Potomac on Tuesday, throwing five shutout innings and reaching 91 mph. The Nationals were off, so manager Manny Acta was there.
``I was very happy, because he was able to keep his velocity throughout the whole five innings. His stamina was good,'' Acta said.
But there weren't any left-handed batters in the lineup Hill faced Tuesday, and the Nationals want to see how he fares against a Triple-A lineup.
``He was overmatching those kids even when he was behind in the count,'' Acta said.
The good news for Hill was that he didn't feel the sort of stabbing pain he felt in his forearm during spring training. His guess is that he'll go about six innings, perhaps up to 95 pitches, Sunday, and then will ``play it by ear at that point'' for what comes next.
``Shawn Hill was supposed to be our No. 1 starter,'' Acta said. ``We've just got to do what's best for him and for us.''
The Nationals' roster is in a state of perpetual flux in the early going of this season, and the latest change involved catcher Johnny Estrada's arrival before Wednesday's game against Florida. Estrada was at Columbus, rehabbing a right elbow injury that prevented him from playing in any Grapefruit League games and landed him on the DL.
He gives the Nationals three catchers, joining starter Paul Lo Duca and Jesus Flores, but for the time being Estrada will be limited to pinch-hitting duty. He took the roster spot of Dmitri Young, the first baseman who went on the 15-day DL on Tuesday with a lower back sprain.
Closer Chad Cordero, meanwhile, was to pitch at Potomac on Wednesday night. He hasn't pitched for the Nationals this season because of right shoulder tendinitis, and he could come off the disabled list ``by the weekend,'' Acta said.

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