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Saturday, February 7, 2009
Nats P Shawn Hill wins salary arbitration case

Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Nationals pitcher Shawn Hill had two reasons to be pleased Saturday.

He won his salary arbitration case and will earn $775,000 in 2009, instead of the $500,000 Washington offered, and his right arm felt just the way it should -- zero pain -- after a 45-pitch bullpen session as spring training approaches.

"Just like any other pitcher that we would have. Ready to go. No restrictions at this point," said Hill, whose career has been marked by plenty of promise and plenty of injuries. "Just trying to get tuned up."

The right-handed starter was the first player in the majors to go to a hearing this year. The panel of Elizabeth Neumeier, Robert Bailey and Fredric Horowitz heard Hill's case Friday.

Owners won six of eight cases that went to hearings in 2008. Overall, owners now hold a 279-206 edge since salary arbitration began in 1974.

"I'm mildly surprised, just because the owners tend to have the advantage historically. Definitely happy, obviously, but just relieved at the same to be done and over with it all," Hill said by telephone from his home in Viera, Fla., where Nationals pitchers and catchers will hold their first official workout Feb. 16.

He said his agent and the Nationals came "really close" to settling on a contract figure to avoid arbitration -- with negotiations continuing up until five minutes before the hearing.

"It was just a matter of the terms weren't quite where we were comfortable," Hill said. "We had more to gain than lose by going through the process."

Washington general manager Jim Bowden did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and a team spokesman said the Nationals would not comment.

Baltimore reliever George Sherrill and Toronto reliever Shawn Camp agreed to terms with their clubs Saturday, leaving 19 players scheduled for hearings. That includes three other Nationals: third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, outfielder Josh Willingham and left-hander Scott Olsen.

Hill made $402,000 in 2008, when he went 1-5 with a 5.83 ERA in 12 start for a Washington club that finished a majors-worst 59-102. He went on the disabled list in June because of a sore elbow and had arthroscopic surgery in September.

The 27-year-old Hill missed the 2005 season after elbow-ligament replacement surgery. He was out for part of 2006 because of soreness in his right elbow and made only 16 starts in 2007 because of an injured left shoulder and a compressed nerve in his right forearm.

On Saturday, though, he felt as good as he has in years, set to claim his place in Washington's rotation.

"As long as I'm healthy, I feel that I should have my spot," Hill said. "Now I definitely need to go out there and earn it."