Thursday, September 9, 2010

Where Are They Now?: Shawn Hill

(AP Photo/Hannah Foslien)

Many long-term Nationals fans know the story of Shawn Hill: the highly rated Expos/Nationals pitching prospect. It's a name that frustrates most of those fans, like John Patterson. Pitchers with potential that just couldn't stay healthy.

Hill's story starts when he was drafted by the Montreal Expos in the 6th round of the 2000 amateur player draft. Hill made his debut for the Expos on June 29, 2004 for the Expos, but he never made it out of the season. He had to have Tommy John surgery to repair a damaged elbow. He didn't appear in a uniform again until 2006.

After Hill rehabbed and rejoined the majors in '06, he was still pitching for the same franchise, but in a different city. Montreal had moved to DC, and Hill was now a Nationals starter. A fresh start for him in a career that had been derailed by injury. That year, Hill never pitched less than 5 innings, but didn't start a game after June 28th of that year. More nagging elbow injuries.

He came back again in 2007, but made just 16 starts. On May 11th, Hill pitched a no-hitter through 5 innings, but pulled himself with shoulder soreness, which turned out to be a partially torn labrum. He returned in August and pitched for the rest of the season, but was less than stellar. He did end the season with an impressive 3.42 ERA over his 16 starts. He fought shoulder and forearm pain all season.

In 2008, it was more of the same for Hill. He had bone spurs removed from the same elbow and made just 12 starts. The Nationals cut ties with him that season. In June 2009, Hill had his 2nd Tommy John surgery. He was just 28 years old.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, after a very short, very unsuccessful stint with the San Diego Padres in 2009, Shawn Hill is making his 2010 debut with the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday night. Hill, who was born in Mississauga, Ontairo, a suburb of Toronto, will be close to family for yet another attempted restart of his career. A career that is officially on life support. In the Jays AAA Las Vegas affiliate this season, Hill went 6-2 with a 1.61 ERA in 11 starts.

The Blue Jays, and first-year GM Alex Anthopoulos, are taking a significant chance on the eternally injured starter. Maybe this is the year for Hill, after so many surgeries, so many rehabs, so many frustrated off-seasons. On Thursday night against the Seattle Mariners, the Jays, The Hills, and the Nationals front office that let him go a few years ago will surely find out.

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