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SPRING TRAINING nationals report Team starts sorting through bargain bin SPRING TRAINING
Nationals prepare for spring training

 Jason Simontacchi is one of a host of journeymen pitchers the Nationals hope can earn a spot in the majors.
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Date published: 2/14/2007

By TODD JACOBSON

BY TODD JACOBSON

VIERA, Fla.

--Shawn Hill lives a few blocks from Space Coast Stadium and has spent his winter working out at the Washington Nationals' training facility.

And from his corner locker at the Carl Barger Complex, the right-hander has watched a steady stream of unfamiliar faces stroll through the doors over the last few days.

He's greeted each one of his potential new teammates--some of the 71 players who will be in camp with the Nationals this spring--with a handshake and a few kind words, but even he is having trouble keeping track of the growing number of unrecognizable faces milling around the clubhouse these days.

"As everyone comes in, little by little, I've tried to get to know them, but it's going to take awhile," Hill said.

The Nationals' offseason binge on bargain pitching finally became a reality yesterday, with hurlers from near and far--some familiar, many unrecognizable--arriving as pitchers and catchers reported to the Nationals' training facility in Viera.

Of the 71 players in camp, 38 will be pitchers, and nearly half will be in competition for four spots in Washington's starting rotation.

Right-hander John Patterson has a lock on one starting gig; the rest will be sorted and sifted from an eclectic group that includes its share of aging veterans and rookies.

Right-hander Jason Simontacchi, 36, has pitched with the St. Louis Cardinals, as well as three different independent league teams and an Italian professional squad. Left-hander Matt Chico is 23, and he's never pitched above Double-A.

Hill fits in somewhere in between. The 25-year-old right-hander had a 4.66 ERA in six games last year before he was shelved due to pain in his surgically repaired right elbow, and for a group Hill playfully described as a "mob," he's close to a veteran.

"There are so many guys, nobody has any idea right now how it'll work out," Hill said. "I figure they have an idea--maybe 10 guys or so--but beyond that I have no idea. I figure probably a week or two into games it'll shake out."

But first, the hellos

As players trickled in yesterday, there were handshakes and backslaps and more than a few first-time introductions.


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SPRINGTIME IN FLORIDA Free Lance-Star reporter Todd Jacobson is in Viera, Fla., reporting from spring training.