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."
March 31, 2010; 6:50 PM ET
Categories: Cristian Guzman , Ian Desmond
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