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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.

By Adam Kilgore  |  March 20, 2010; 4:32 PM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Matt Chico's demotion, Cristian Guzman's view on the shortstop job, Nyjer Morgan's hamstring and Jamie Burke's surgery
Next: Polling the lineup and links


WTF?!? Guzman is now talking trash like he OWNS the SS job? Wow!!! Obviously he is clueless on how he rates among his MLB SS peers! And the only time I've seen him play in ST since returning from surgery (last week on MASN) he repeatedly soft-lobbed the ball off-base to Dunn. And all written reports since say the same.
His anti-team attitude makes it obvious he will become a clubhouse cancer if he's benched, so it's equally obvious his time has come: time to be traded or be 'Dukes'd".

Posted by: 1stBaseCoach | March 20, 2010 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Coach - Hold the phone.
You're reading into what he's saying, and you may not be reading into it accurately.

Saying he does not *need* to win the job, and that he's *not in competition*, is not necessarily a viewpoint of entitlement.

Lots of MLB guys speak that same lingo. Pudge said the same thing, he is not *competing* with his teammates.

(AK - Giving us ambiguous quotes without context is not all that helpful)

Guzman, I bet, is not saying that the job is his. He's just saying, I'm going to do the best I can do and what happens, happens. But I don't need to win the spot, and I''m not competing for the spot. I'm just going to do the best I can do.

That said, I'm in favor of just dropping Guzman.
Not because of attitude.

Cause he's got no upside at all. A worse than average defender. A pathetic career .307 OBP. His best gives you a liability on offense and on defense.

The $8mm is already spent. Cut him lose. Give ID what he deserves. Let's play ball.

Posted by: Sunderland | March 20, 2010 5:39 PM | Report abuse

I think his arm is going to give the club an excuse to start him on the DL and break camp with Desmond as the starting SS. It'll then be up to Desmond to play well enough to keep the job until Guzy gets back. If that happens, and Desmond plays well, I would expect Guzy to get some reps at 2B to give Kennedy some days off. Here is my 25-man roster prediction:

Morgan 8
Kennedy 4
Zimmerman 5
Dunn 3
Willingham 7
Desmond 6
Pudge 2
Harris 9



Bruney - cl

I think Bernadina and Duncan go to SYR to work on their swings, but could be the next two to come up. I think the carry Taveras for a his defense and pinch-running. Guzy's spot goes to AG. I think Brunlett is on the roster regardless because of his versality.

I think Bergmann makes it over Stammen for the last bullpen spot because they're gonna want to keep Stammen stretched out as a starter to replace Olsen/Livo/Mock if any of them falter early.

I think Morse ends up getting the most AB's in RF, but put up what I think will be the opening day lineup.

Posted by: sec307 | March 20, 2010 6:56 PM | Report abuse

I think Brian has the closest guess to the opening day 25 on NFA. What he wasn't expecting was for Rizzo to collect all of his top five (short Norris but he may end up there?) prospects and put them together in Harrisburg.

Harrisburg looks to be the place to watch. Its not where Bergmann, Balester, Martis, Walker, Battista, etc. are going which is likely Syracuse if not somewhere else.

Posted by: periculum | March 20, 2010 7:12 PM | Report abuse

at sec 307

what about burnett?

Posted by: jacquesdoucet | March 20, 2010 7:16 PM | Report abuse

yeah sec307, in spite of his spring I think Burnett is a lock just based off of last year. I think you drop Walker, add in Burnett and Bergmann and you have the bullpen right. As for the position players I think Gonzales is out.

I also am not sure they are going to be willing to just cut Guzman even though I think it's probably best to do so.

Posted by: autobits | March 20, 2010 7:59 PM | Report abuse

Actually I'll refine that. I predict that Guz spends the beginning of the year on the DL. It'll give him a chance to continue to rehab his arm, and the FO a chance to decide what to do with him.

Posted by: autobits | March 20, 2010 8:05 PM | Report abuse

If you arte playing for the future and writing this year off then you might want to see Desmond and see if he is a long term answer at SS and trade Guz for a bag of balls.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | March 20, 2010 8:50 PM | Report abuse

Any SS that flirts with the Mendoza Line better be a defensive stalwart.

Defensive stalwarts don't have issues throwing hard to 1B when required.

Time to bring in young talent at SS.

Posted by: clandestinetomcat | March 20, 2010 9:21 PM | Report abuse

Flirts with the Medoza line? Please. 2005 was a long time ago, the guy's had Lasik surgery since then and been a .300 (overall) hitter the last few seasons. I'm no huge fan of Guz, his OBP, attitude and contract - but I think he gets a lot of exaggerated criticism. Maybe because a lot of people around DC haven't actually watched the team on a nighly basis since Guzman was struggling at the plate in '05?

Posted by: Kev29 | March 20, 2010 10:02 PM | Report abuse

and not all that closely then, Kev.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | March 20, 2010 10:09 PM | Report abuse

I mentioned this before. Guzman has made millions as a Nat. The first year he was pathetic (medosa line) The next year and a half--disabled. Then he put up a good batting average, but nothing else. I assume he wasn't willing to go to second base, although I don't know that for sure. He makes me sick.

Posted by: jcampbell1 | March 20, 2010 10:15 PM | Report abuse

I'd rather see Desmond at short, myself, but geez. One bad throw and you lose your job? That's harsh.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | March 20, 2010 10:32 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, forgot about Burnett... and I agree he's in despite his recent play. Track record plays a big part in the bullpen decisions.

Bruney - cl

Stammen to SYR unless Olsen's arm is not ready and Olsen starts on the DL.

I hope it's obvious that the team has to eat Guzy's contract regardless. I'd say they should offer to pay most of it and try to get a live body in return via trade. If they trade him at the deadline there will only be about half of it left to pay... for what's it's worth.

Opening Day ain't too far away and I don't think Guzy will be ready (which it not really that horrible since it gives Desmond a chance to sink or swim knowing that Guzy will eventually be available if Ian sinks).

I think the 25-man will look like this at the on August 31st:

Morgan 8
Desmond 6
Zimmerman 5
Dunn 3
Willingham 7
Kennedy 4
Bernadina 9
Flores 2



Capps - cl

Posted by: sec307 | March 20, 2010 10:59 PM | Report abuse

I think a part of this is that there plenty in the management and coaching ranks who remember last year when the team came out last year bereft of enough veteran leadership with too many prospects or just past prospects in key positions.

Kennedy at second and especially Pudge catching are indicators of that I guess. Having Guzman in there solidifies a pretty veteran middle ... add in Marquis plus Bruney and Capps.

My guess is that Desmond ends up with job at the beginning of April, whether he keeps it is up to him. So, they will more than likely keep Guzman, put on DL send him to do some rehab starts in Harrisburg ... while keeping a weather eye on Desmond.

Posted by: periculum | March 20, 2010 11:15 PM | Report abuse

Guzman's unwillingness or inability to air out a throw, when he has to know that it's expected, is very worrisome. When he's on, even though he almost never walks, he's a hitter -- he was leading the league last year in May -- but I've said it before, he should get his laser eye surgery rechecked.

Gawd, I'm getting worried about this year. I like Desmond as a hitter, but I'm not sure he's a major league SS. The Nats don't have a RF who's a sure bet, and the starting pitching is iffy.

I've been through this before, starting back in the '60s, and it doesn't look so good to me.

Posted by: nats24 | March 21, 2010 1:17 AM | Report abuse

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