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03/19/08 5:15 PM ET

Hill, Bergmann, Lo Duca improving

Pitchers back on mound; catcher to serve as DH on Thursday

VIERA, Fla. -- The Nationals received good news during their off-day on Thursday. Right-hander Shawn Hill pitched batting practice for the first time, while right-hander Jason Bergmann and catcher Paul Lo Duca looked good in a Minor League game.

Hill threw 35 pitches at the team's Minor League complex and didn't have any pain in his right forearm, which has given him problems most of the spring. However, according to pitching coach Randy St. Claire, Hill didn't have good command of his pitches because of the stiff wind blowing at the complex.

"The ball was slipping out of his hand when he was trying to throw his breaking balls," St. Claire said.

As recently as two days ago, manager Manny Acta said that Hill would not start the season on time because he has yet to pitch in Spring Training games. As of now, Hill is expected to appear in a regular-season game by mid-April.

Bergmann pitched six innings without giving up a run to the Astros' Triple-A affiliate, and became the first Nationals pitcher to throw that many innings in a Spring Training game. Bergmann tossed 76 pitches.

"I felt pretty good, but it took a while," Bergmann said. "The wind was kind of tough to pitch in. I was able to throw some offspeed pitches for strikes. My fastball wasn't the best until later on. It was good throwing the ball."

Lo Duca, who has a left knee problem, didn't get any hits in the game, but he threw out two baserunners. He is expected to be the designated hitter in his first Major League exhibition game against the Astros on Thursday, then get behind the plate against the Mets on Friday.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.