Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Few Minutes With Shawn Hill


He has missed a full season and parts of most others. Yet, Shawn Hill is still one of the most talented young pitchers in baseball. The soon to be 27 year old has one of the best sinker balls in the game. Unfortunately, he just can't stay healthy. Having just 25 starts over the past five seasons of Major League Baseball--might get anyone down. While some might even consider hanging up the spikes--Not Shawn Hill. This always engaging and interesting Canadian is one of Our Washington Nationals best starters. Early in this 2008 Spring, Our Number 41 has been lights out in his first few intersquad assignments. Just today, he was untouchable again on the mound. Throwing just 40 pitches per session--Shawn Hill is the talk of camp. And everyone realizes he still has potential.

Of course--after throwing his second batting practice round of the spring--Shawn Hill reported some right elbow tightness this afternoon. This from a man who just four months ago--had surgery on his right elbow (radial nerve) and had his left shoulder repaired after he separated it--in a head first slide last April against The Marlins.

Is it time to worry again?

With that in mind--its appropriate to post up our chat with Hill a few days ago. Over the past year, I have been pleased to speak with him on four separate occasions. Shawn not only has an agreeable personality, but he is thoughtful in his responses. As Sohna likes to say--maybe it's his Commonwealth Country Background From North of The Border. But, whatever the reason--Shawn Hill is fun to talk to.

So, here we go with A Few Minutes With Shawn Hill:

You know what I am going to be starting with? (SBF)

“The injuries, I figure.”

Yeah, you know it. (chuckling—SBF)

“That is everybody’s question.”

As you know, I have always said you are one of the most talented pitchers I have seen, but its never worked out for you. (SBF)

“No, it hasn’t. Me, and Patty (John Patterson) always have something weird kind of happen. The Tommy John (Surgery) I saw that coming. The nerve thing I didn’t see coming. Little things, the shoulder, but I feel good so far.”

I guess you will not be sliding back into third base anytime soon? (SBF—laughing)

“Yeah (joining in the laugh), No more. If I do—it will be FEET FIRST!! (Everyone busting out laughing) Feet first, standing up, even if I get thrown out. I am never doing that again. (The fun continuing). Now, I can’t promise it, but if it happens in a game, it happens, but I am not diving back into the bag.”

Instinct takes over sometimes. (SBF)

“That was the problem. Hanley (Ramirez of The Marlins) was really close to the bag. How can I get back to the bag safely. I have to go around him. I can plow into him or I can go around him. I tried to go around him and it didn’t work out so well (dislocated shoulder).”

How strange was it to have surgery on both shoulders—basically? (SBF)

“Pretty odd. I had to wait two weeks between each surgery. I wanted to have both at the same time—but they (the doctors) said no. Even as it turned out, I was in a sling for both arms for a short period of time. So, they couldn’t take both arms away from me. This one (his left) hurt pretty bad in the shoulder. This one (his right) didn’t hurt a whole lot—it was just more of getting it done. It was a little different (nodding his head up and down).

Were those scars (on his right forearm and elbow) a result of the surgery? (SBF)

“Yeah, and a couple of dots I got—just from the scope. (Showing me all the scars). Yes, these are my souvenirs.”

How tough is it to come back, time after time. (SBF)

“Ah (thinking), to be honest it gets harder AND easier the more it happens. Harder in the sense you keep getting frustrated—how much more I have to go through. Easier in the sense that now since you have dealt with it—you know what to expect and what you go through. The biggest thing is patience—where you realize—take it easy, don’t jump right back into it. Half the time that’s not going to work out too well.”

I was talking with Alex Escobar about his similar problems. (SBF)

“Yes, we are very much alike.”

So, I asked him what keeps you going? And, he responded: I believe I have Major League Talent and I am going to try until I can’t do it anymore. You must feel the same way. (SBF)

“Yeah, if I was 45 (years old), and I was running into this—it would be a different issue. Still, if I can get healthy—either this year or next year, or even five years from now---I am not giving up. Ideally, I have 15 years to go. Granted, that’s reaching high, but if I can even get a fraction of that (playing time)—that would be a pretty good chunk of time.”

You can never give up—when you have the talent. (SBF)

"No. No way. If I was going through this same stuff and I was (playing) in Low A (Ball), that’s one thing. You are being paid pennies and all that. But, I am being paid pretty well and I can’t complain. This is one of those things, were if you can suffer through a couple of setbacks—and get to the point where you are healthy with things going well—it will work out in the long run. So, its just a matter of going through the paces.”

That's good attitude to take. (SBF)

"Well, these are the cards as they were dealt. I have to deal with them."

Changing subjects--We (Sohna and I) have been to the new ballpark a few times. (SBF)

“Yeah, I know, I’ve seen some of your pictures.”

You telling me you read the blog? (SBF)

“Yeah, I do. It’s a long winter. We have plenty of time.”

Are you looking forward to going? (The African Queen)

“Very much. It will be nice to play in the exhibition game (on March 29th) to get a feel for it—and of course the festivities on the 30th. But, RFK (Stadium) was not as bad as everyone made it out to be.”

I agree with that. (SBF)

“Its definitely not a great park, especially for baseball. But, its not as bad as its made out to be. The New Park after looking at all your pictures, the clubhouse—its going to be 10 times nicer. So, its something I am very much looking forward to—more spacious and hopefully more fans out to see us. I think we have a decent hard core following, but its fairly small. Hopefully, we can build on that. Success usually has something to do with that. In a perfect world, a new stadium will bring out 5000 more people per game, maybe 10000 people per game. If you can hook some of them—you can gradually build a fan base year by year. If we can build a larger fans base—the ballpark will be more cozier to play in.”

The New Stadium is open to the outfield. There is the possibility the winds will whip in from Centerfield. How will that affect your sinkerball? (SBF)

“The way I throw that should not really bother me. If it blows in, the wind will not help my sinker at all. I am indifferent to it that way as it keeps the ball in the park. So, that helps me there. If the wind is blowing out—obviously if a guy hits the ball up in the air--that hurts. But, its a lot like (Tim) Wakefield’s Knuckleball—if the wind is blowing in your face, the more movement you have—the wind will accentuate that. So, if I have a little bit of sync and the wind in my face—all of sudden—(the wind) helps a lot. The hitter is trying to hit home runs. But, the baseball is moving more. So, it kind of balances out. The wind has never been a big issue for me. The overall dimensions of the park are smaller, so the park will be more hitter friendly. But, some have said (New Nationals Park) will be a hitter park. Some have said it would be a pitchers park. Others say it will be neutral.”

Wily Mo, Zimmerman and a few others came out to the park late last year. None of them could hit it out of the park. (SBF)

“But, wasn’t the wind blowing in?”

Yes, and they couldn’t hit the baseball out. (SBF)

“That explains it. You have to wonder if the wind was blowing out—whether they would just be launching them. It will probably be around the All-Star Break before you get a true feel of what way the ballpark will play.”

You are looking forward to the upcoming season. (SBF)

"Yes, very much so. If I can stay healthy, and help this team win some games, great. That's all I really want to accomplish right now. Win and Stay Healthy.

After today's solid effort on the mound, I can only hope Shawn Hill is physically fine. Watching his performance on the practice fields this Tuesday was thrilling to watch. Sure, its very early and the hitters are just beginning to get their strokes together, but when any pitcher can handcuff Wily Mo Pena, Elijah Dukes, Lastings Milledge and Alex Escobar--you've got some serious pitching talent out there. And, Our Washington Natiionals KNOW, they have a top of the line starter.

1 comment:

Jon said...

Hye SBF, do me a favor if you get a chance to talk to Stan Kasten. Can you find out if the Nationals will be putting a big ad on the back of the scoreboard to cover up the exposed structural part like most MLB parks do? Thanks...