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Cristian Guzman plays second, Ian Desmond plays shortstop, and they get along fine

As the Nationals took batting practice this afternoon, Ian Desmond and Cristian Guzman jogged toward the middle of the diamond. They had stood on infields together for five years, but never like this. Desmond manned shortstop, Guzman second base. Nationals coach Jim Lett smacked groundballs, and Desmond and Guzman fed each other flips.

Desmond had not worried about this moment; that would be saying too much. But he had wondered. Two days ago, after all, Desmond had taken Guzman's job.

"I didn't really know how it was going to be when we got on the field at same time," Desmond said. "He's a veteran, you know? This guy's played 12, 13 years in the big leagues."

By the time Guzman's debut as a starter at second base ended in a 6-4 win over the Cardinals, Desmond wondered no more. In his initial days as a bench player, Guzman embraced his new diminished role, willing and, seemingly, happy to work at second base. Today, he and Desmond turned two double plays, a 6-4-3 and 4-6-3. They slapped gloves after both.

Desmond made two errors, bring his total to seven, but at the plate Desmond and Guzman basically beat Adam Wainwright and the Cardinals by themselves. They each produced three hits and two doubles. They provided the offense for the Nationals, and Guzman provided relief for Desmond.

"To me, when he was at second base, he was having fun," Desmond said. "That's great to see, to know that he's not really mad at me, to kind of break the ice. We were communicating good on the field. We were flowing. It was awesome. It was fun. Getting to watch him hit and be on the field at the same time, that's something we haven't been able to do."

Desmond and Guzman are the lone, continuous holdovers from spring 2005, the first moments of franchise history. When the Nationals came together for the first time, Desmond was a 19-year-old phenom and Guzman was a splashy free agent from the Minnesota Twins. Guzman looked after the kid.

"I've got a soft spot in my heart for Guzie," Desmond said. "He kind of took me under his wing for the last five years, basically. He just looked out for me. He would always be behind me. He always treated me well. He also had my best interest in mind."

The joy and disappointment that comes at the end of a position battle also brings some awkwardness. On Sunday morning, Desmond accepted handshakes and hugs while Guzman played cards. Neither acknowledged the transaction to the other.

"I don't think he really needed to," Desmond said. "We're friends. He's my buddy. Nothing really needed to be said. If something needed to be said, he would have said something. We're cool. No hard feelings.

"I know he's behind me. He's got my back."

By Adam Kilgore  |  March 31, 2010; 6:50 PM ET
Categories:  Cristian Guzman , Ian Desmond  
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Next: Willie Harris's tough day: 'It felt like a football lick'


Adam - you have the wrong score of the game!

Posted by: Bill-CH | March 31, 2010 7:07 PM | Report abuse

They both went 3-4, but Desmond had 2 errors (gulp!). Really hope it works out for both players. Yeah, Guzman has the big salary but it's not like he had Bowden over a barrel when he signed it. As a switch hitter he could be a good late inning pinch hitter where you need someone to go up there swinging. I'm more concerned about the closer situation. Capps had another rough outing today.

Posted by: Natmeister | March 31, 2010 7:18 PM | Report abuse

The one that should be watching out is that other splash FA signee, Adam Kennedy. His job isn't looking to secure IMO.

Posted by: estuartj | March 31, 2010 7:20 PM | Report abuse

Yeah no kidding - watch out Kennedy!

Posted by: PattyinSJ | March 31, 2010 7:31 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, Guzman is turning out to be a real "cancer in the clubhouse," as some of our NJ experts foretold...

Posted by: CapPeterson1 | March 31, 2010 7:34 PM | Report abuse

Miniscule sample size on Guzman at 2B, but I hope he'll take to it "like a duck to water". Kennedy might be a little torqued about the late move, but he's proven to be versatile (2B-3B, now 1B); He'll get his field time, imo.
Best-case, maybe the Nationals end up with some tradeable 'inventory' out of all this shuffling (Gonzalez, Guzman, Harris, Kennedy, Morse). Only time will tell whether or not Rizzo can put something together that helps the team.

Posted by: BinM | March 31, 2010 8:14 PM | Report abuse

Attaboy, Guzie!

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 31, 2010 10:39 PM | Report abuse

Guzman has been a professional where ever he played [position or city]. They Yankees are due some injuries; maybe Cano goes on the DL and the Nats get one of their young very good catching prospects. :)

Posted by: MultiverseJoe | April 1, 2010 6:09 AM | Report abuse

I use creamy Jiffy peanut butter . It goes on real smooth and does not stick ti hair . The bride of course likes most when I spread it out like icing on a cake . She doesn't like the crackers after I lick her off . The peanut butter makes her little man stand out ridgid ..... yummy little guy

Posted by: terryreece | April 1, 2010 7:14 AM | Report abuse

Seems to me Desmond is the one who should say a few kind words to Guzman. He could start with "Thanks a million for all your help." Next, he could ask "Can you teach me how to use a glove?"

Posted by: howjensen | April 1, 2010 7:57 AM | Report abuse

Don't worry about Guzman's attitude. He'll be giving it everything he's got, as this is the final year of his contract.

Posted by: shanks1 | April 1, 2010 8:03 AM | Report abuse

Only in WaPo la-la land could one game be used to measure the results of a SS/2B combo.

And,what does Jim Leyland know? He thinks it takes at least a few months of the regular season for new middle infielders to get in sync, and earnest fellows like Jeter and Cano have been at it for years.

But the miraculous Nats can do it in a single spring training game. I love this team, and this paper!

Posted by: JohnRDC | April 1, 2010 8:16 AM | Report abuse

Love the story on the Paris and Nicole relationship front, but the 2 errors by Desmond in a nhandful of chances is the real story.

Once Guz can throw again, unless Desmond is hitting a ton, Desmond will be off to Cuse (where he belongs). Just watch.

Posted by: dfh21 | April 1, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

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