The trouble with Cristian Guzman's arm
Jim Riggleman had been waiting to see Cristian Guzman make a throw that would test his shoulder, that would prove him - and to Guzman - that his arm had strengthened enough to render moot the shoulder surgery he had last fall. The opportunity came today in the Nationals' 5-3 loss to the Marlins, and Guzman failed the test.
Guzman ranged to his right to field a groundball hit by Donnie Murphy. His soft, errant throw pulled Adam Dunn off the base and led to an error. There is plenty of left before opening day arrives, but Guzman's throw was a bad sign for a player competing for a starting job, whether he thinks so or not. (And he doesn't; more later.)
"The first ball that was hit to him, he did a nice, crisp throw over there to first base," Riggleman said. "He looked real good. The ball to his right, it just looked like he was thinking, 'I'm not going to air this ball out.' For whatever reason he didn't want to really let it go. The result was, it's not a good throw.
"That's what we've got to determine here in the next couple weeks: If he airs it out, is there going to be no pain? Or is there going to be some pain? I think he just was tentative on the throw and didn't want to let it go."
The Nationals are getting to the point where they will have to test Guzman more often. Riggleman is not concerned about Guzman's status for opening day; he hasn't envisioned a scenario in which Guzman would not be on the team when the Nationals head north.
For now, Riggleman believes Guzman's tentative throwing derives not from something he can't do, but from something he doesn't want to do. In Riggleman's eyes, Guzman hasn't gotten it in his mind that he has fully overcome the surgery.
Guzman's game today was his second since he returned from Washington, where his wife gave birth to a baby girl. Yesterday, Riggleman said he and Ian Desmond are in "open competition" for the starting shortstop job. Guzman, though, still feels the job is his to lose.
"No," Guzman said when asked if he needed to win the job. "It doesn't matter. I'm not in competition with him."
Guzman is the incumbent from last season and the last remaining starter from 2005 who has been with the Nationals continuously. With Desmond playing so well and with so much about Guzman's arm in question, his status as the unquestioned starter no longer remains.
March 20, 2010; 4:32 PM ET
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