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Cristian Guzman, right fielder

Cristian Guzman may no longer be the Nationals everyday shortstop, but Manager Jim Riggleman is still adamant about finding him regular playing time. Another indication of that came today in the ninth inning of the Nationals' 9-3 victory over the Mets, when Guzman trotted out to right field.*

Before the game, Manager Jim Riggleman talked to Guzman, who has never played outfield, about shagging some flies and becoming a part-time outfielder. The new idea is a means to give Guzman more at-bats and provide the Nationals additional options.

"When he's swinging the bat good like he has all spring, you don't want to just be able to mix him in at shortstop and second and have him sit too much," Riggleman said. "I don't want him to get stale. I don't want him to think of himself as a guy who will get 150 at-bats."

Playing outfield would also add to Guzman's versatility as a switch-hitting bench player. An example: On days Willie Harris starts in right field against a right-handed starting pitcher, Guzman could enter as a pinch hitter against a left-handed reliever.

Guzman could also pinch-hit for Willy Taveras on days Taveras starts under any circumstances. Taveras has a career 68 OPS+, which makes him a batter you really don't want hitting in crucial situations. This spring, Guzman is batting .311 (with no walks and a .311 on-base percentage) with a .533 slugging percentage.

"Just keeping our options open," Riggleman said.

Guzman faces an acclimation period, but "I don't think it would take that long," Riggleman said. Early in the season, Riggleman will try to find Guzman playing time late in games when the score is not close -- at least four or five runs ideally, Riggleman said -- so he can gain experience under relaxed conditions.

Riggleman compared Guzman to Willie Harris, who played second base exclusively for the early portions of his career. Guzman does not necessarily profile as a right fielder, Riggleman said, but he could still be an adequate option.

"I think he'll do OK," Riggleman said. "None of our guys other than Willy Taveras are really right fielders, anyway."

In the short time since the Nationals appointed Ian Desmond their starting shortstop, Guzman has embraced his new role. Yesterday, Desmond said Guzman approached his first start as a second baseman with eagerness and affability.

"I'm always happy," Guzman said, laughing.

*When Guzman went out to right, myself and the other reporters at the game were in the clubhouse and didn't notice. The perils of spring: We had finished talking to starter Jason Marquis and lingered down there. The game was close to finishing, and the set-up in Port St. Lucie is such that it takes forever to get from the clubhouse to the press box. Looking over the box score, I read that Guzman had played some right field and thought maybe it was a typo. I called Riggleman and explained why I only noticed Guzman had played right field two hours after the game. "I was wondering why nobody asked me about that," Riggleman said. I'm grateful he understood.

By Adam Kilgore  |  April 1, 2010; 6:07 PM ET
 
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Comments

"None of our guys other than Willy Taveras are really right fielders, anyway."

I just wanna cry.

Posted by: swang30 | April 1, 2010 6:15 PM | Report abuse

Just what we want, a right fielder who has trouble throwing the ball.

Third base coaches all over the NL are taking motrin for the aches they'll get waving runners in.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | April 1, 2010 6:20 PM | Report abuse

I have a little trouble understanding why anyone would be anxious to get a .300 OBP into the lineup. Unless it's to build some trade value. Maybe they are thinking if they can get him to be a utility guy, someone would look at him differently. A solid glove for middle infield or corner outfield who switch hits and has a little pop. We'd still have to eat his salary but maybe we grab another A or AA prospect out of it.

As for RF, I'm a little worried about that, looking ahead a year or two. There is no one in the system who is close at that position, the FA class for '11 has only Werth that you'd be excited about. I'd love to get him but doubt we will, I see him going further North up 95, not south. I guess if our pitching pans out and we have a surplus, maybe we could trade for one or more RF prospects. So, I worry. I have strong hope everywhere else, even if I shouldn't.

Posted by: Avar | April 1, 2010 6:21 PM | Report abuse

@Avar,

Michael Burgess a 1st round pick played today in right field. He had an RBI double. He is a pretty good fielder, has a plus arm, and plus plus power. I think he might do if he learns to cut down on the strikeouts, raise his average and walk more at Harrisburg or Potomac. Not sure which roster he will be on. Hopefully he is only a year or two away.

Posted by: periculum | April 1, 2010 6:27 PM | Report abuse

Seriously. He got fired from SS because he couldn't throw the ball, for crying out loud, in the INFIELD.

??????????????????????????

Posted by: NatsNut | April 1, 2010 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Bad idea Jeans?

Posted by: Tom8 | April 1, 2010 6:39 PM | Report abuse

Do I have this right?

2 Pudge
3 Dunn
4 Kennedy
6 Desmond
5 Zimmerman

7 Willingham
8 Nyjer
9 Harris

B Guzman
B Nieves
B Taveras
B Morse

SP Lannan
SP Marquis
SP Livo
SP Stammen
SP Olsen or Mock

BP Capps
BP Burnett
BP Bruney
BP Clippard
BP Bergmann
BP Batista

3 guys on the bubble and maybe 2 get on the 25 man:
Bruntlett
Gonzalez
Bernadina

1 bullpen pitcher on the bubble if they keep 7
English


Posted by: GoingGoingGone | April 1, 2010 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Last week I watched the Nats play the Marlins in Jupiter, the Mets in Viera, the Tigers in Lakeland and the Yanks in Tampa.

While there were unexpected bright spots --such as Stammen and English -- the hole in right field was glaring. (And this is from a fan of the Dukes move.)

Nobody stepped up. JMAX looked completely lost at the dish. Morse took a number of called third strikes. Bernadina and Taveras were strangely listless in the field, botching several plays, and struggled to be banjo hitters at the plate. Willie Harris looked like a fine fill-in, but not a starter.


By the end of the Yankees game, Mike and Mike were in the outfield -- Daniel and Burgess!

Spring training always is enjoyable, but the whole thing left me uttering a fervent prayer: "Bryce Harper, come on down."


Posted by: Drew8 | April 1, 2010 6:40 PM | Report abuse

I really thought this my be an April fool's joke, but I just checked the box score and it is for real.

Posted by: Tom8 | April 1, 2010 6:50 PM | Report abuse

"I think he'll do OK," Riggleman said. "None of our guys other than Willy Taveras are really right fielders, anyway."

Willy Taveras has played ONE INNING in right field over the course of his entire big league career. Really.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | April 1, 2010 6:51 PM | Report abuse

@GoingGoingGone
Your guess is as good as anyones at this point.
I don't think Morse is definite.
I don't think Batista is definite.
(But I think they are bot likely to make it)
And as bad as Capps has thrown, maybe MacDougal has a shot at the roster too.

MacDougal, Batista, Bruntlett and Livo are all not on the 40 man roster and we'd have to make moves to add them.

Posted by: Sunderland | April 1, 2010 6:55 PM | Report abuse

Not a promising sign. But at least the Nats found a corner OF in Guzman who had a worse OPS in 2009 than Willie Harris. That can't be all that easy to do! Guzman is not an offensive or a defensive replacement in RF.

You get what you pay for. In some ways, the Nats were better off when they were owned by all the other MLB clubs. At least, back then they could trade for a pretty big money OF like Soriano. In sharp contrast, since the Lerners took over, the Nats have never traded for any player who made an average MLB salary or higher. Now that's cheap.

Posted by: EdDC | April 1, 2010 6:58 PM | Report abuse

(Mostly a repost from earlier)

As bad as our RF situation is, I'm way more scared about our closer situation.
Capps has been awful all spring, and he was awful pretty much all last year too.
There's no way anyone can have confidence that he'll be a reasonably effective closer.

Going strictly on performance over the last 12 months, isn't MacDougal more likely to be a decent closer than Capps?

And isn't that more depressing than Willie and Willy in right field?

Posted by: Sunderland | April 1, 2010 6:59 PM | Report abuse

You don't really want Taveras batting in any situation...

Posted by: Offense-offensive | April 1, 2010 7:00 PM | Report abuse

Sunderland,

I agree with you. Matt Capps was cut loose by the Pirates, and the Nats signed him relatively cheap (giving up nothing to the Pirates). Capps was a pretty good bargain for a low-budget team like the Nats. But at these salaries, how much can we really expect from these kinds of pickups?

The whole idea behind the Nats' strategy is buy low and hope for some nice luck. It has been that way for years now. You could say the Nats have not been lucky. But they haven't been unlucky either. They are simply getting about the expected value for their financial payouts, no better and no worse.

I have no complaints about signing Capps. My complaint is relying on these types of players as the primary Nats' strategy.

From sabermatics.com: According to ESPNChicago, the Nationals have agreed to a one-year deal with Matt Capps for $3.5 million. I’ve been critical of the Nats for their free-agent strategy—and I don’t think a 100-loss team should bother signing a closer—but, they got a good deal with Capps. I have him valued at about $5.5 million.

Posted by: EdDC | April 1, 2010 7:17 PM | Report abuse

And how will he get the ball to third base?? FedEx??? UPS?? I will just take this as an April Fool's Day joke and move on.

Posted by: Natmeister | April 1, 2010 7:20 PM | Report abuse

And do you know why we got Capps, at what is a relatively reasonable price? Because we were willing to let him close and none of the other teams pursuing him were willing to do that.
And that means a great deal.
We looked at this guy and said, "he's good enough to be our closer", and virtually no one else in baseball was willing to let him be their closer.

Posted by: Sunderland | April 1, 2010 7:25 PM | Report abuse

Maybe Capps could play some right.

Posted by: markfromark | April 1, 2010 7:27 PM | Report abuse

Agreed with most of you who are grousing about Taveras; He's this years' Corey Patterson, imo; A NRI, promoted to the 25-man roster at the expense of a system player (a roster space wasted, and that's a terrible thing for this team).
At least with his speed & range, when he's in the lineup Morgan can cheat a step or two toward LF to help Willingham. Sadly, he'll be little help offensively. From a purely defensive standpoint, I'd rather have Maxwell on the roster.

Posted by: BinM | April 1, 2010 7:28 PM | Report abuse

Repost: MLB emphasis on defense pays off for Rays and Marlins:
(see Shenin's article)

Church has actually been a better defensive player than Francoeur the last two years. They both have around a .993 Fielding Percentage the last two years, but Church’s UZR has been 3.9 and 2.8, while Francoeur’s has been -4.7 and 0.6.

Advantage—Church.

Losing speedster Willy Tavares (UZR 8.3) will likely go unnoticed with the speedy glove of Drew Stubbs set to fill in at CF.

Willy Harris UZR predicted to be between 3.6 and 2.8.

Posted by: periculum | April 1, 2010 7:31 PM | Report abuse

Corey Patterson was released and is again available.

Posted by: periculum | April 1, 2010 7:32 PM | Report abuse

@Sunderland,

Capps doesn't bother me (except the spot he is taking on the 25 and 40-man). There is Storen, Bruney and good ol' MacDougal should it come to that.

Posted by: periculum | April 1, 2010 7:33 PM | Report abuse

Like many others I was convinced this was an April Fool's joke. I'm horrified.

Posted by: Section220 | April 1, 2010 7:47 PM | Report abuse

Sunderland,

Hey, good point!. And a lot of the Nats' players--Capps as the closer (as you point out), Livo as a starter, Pudge as a starter, Stammen as a starter, whoever the 5th guy is as a starter, Lannan as the ace, Harris as starting RF, maybe Kennedy as the starting 2B--are getting opportunities they could not get elswehere.

I had not thought of that, but you are probably right. By providing these rare opportunities, the Nats can indeed sign some of these guys (Capps, Livo, Kennedy) for a lower price than they could otherwise. This helps to trim the budget!

Posted by: EdDC | April 1, 2010 7:49 PM | Report abuse

peric:
And when Ryan Church gets a hangnail, he's on the 15-DL. Been there, done that; Why do it again?
Drew Stubbs? (25yo, 2nd year, has some 'pop' & decent speed). Really, and what does the team coax him away from the Reds with? I'd honestly like to know.

Posted by: BinM | April 1, 2010 8:20 PM | Report abuse

Christian Guzman RF? this has disaster written all over it wait didn't we try that last year with?............... I would call Dukes back,send him to Syracuse and tell him this is it, last chance and see what happens.

Posted by: dargregmag | April 1, 2010 8:29 PM | Report abuse

tired of you all who know nothing really trashing the Nationals. Later in the year we will have Strasburg, Storen, Wang and maybe Harper. Just be patient ! I'm tired of the whinning

Posted by: renew | April 1, 2010 8:47 PM | Report abuse

dargramps:

I'm with you, in that I hope Riggleman doesn't try that stunt (Guzman in RF) in the regular season, unless the Nationals are either up (or down) by 6+ runs late. I'm OK with Guzman at either 2B or SS, and maybe 3B, but RF is a 'stretch', in anybody's book (except fantasy league players).

Posted by: BinM | April 1, 2010 8:48 PM | Report abuse

2010 we will beat out the Mets. 2011 we will be ocmpetive. 2012 we will be in the playoffs. In Rizzo I trust !!

Posted by: renew | April 1, 2010 8:50 PM | Report abuse

>2010 we will beat out the Mets. 2011 we will be competitive.

Posted by: renew

2011 Depends on whether these arms come back. They're all messed up in supremely unique ways. When Scott Olsen gets up to 100 competitive pitches, then I'll believe it.

Posted by: Brue | April 1, 2010 8:58 PM | Report abuse

trying to get your reserve middle infielder extra ABs as a corner OF?

does this have a familiar historical ring to anyone?

Posted by: sec231 | April 1, 2010 9:15 PM | Report abuse

"tired of you all who know nothing really trashing the Nationals. Later in the year we will have Strasburg, Storen, Wang and maybe Harper. Just be patient ! I'm tired of the whinning

Posted by: renew | April 1, 2010 8:47 PM | Report abuse"

Are you tired of the winning or the whining?

Posted by: SCNatsFan | April 1, 2010 9:16 PM | Report abuse

I don't know how anyone could be tired of the winning...

That said, I think some of my fellow curly W hat wearers are getting a case of the Spring Training freak outs. Guzman plays a few innings of 2nd, "Oh my God, is he going to take Kennedy's job?!?!". Guzman plays an inning of RF, "Oh my God, the sky is falling!!!"

Riggleman seems to be playing dimestore shrink here with Guzman. Trying to let him know that he sees him getting key at bats for this team, striking his ego a bit. Till Monday it's still Spring Training. I agree this team is not going to set the world alight in April, but we've been through worse things than Christian Guzman as a late inning RF when we're down 6 runs.

Posted by: Kev29 | April 1, 2010 9:24 PM | Report abuse

Tired of the whinnying? Horsebleep.
Myself is going back to the clubhouse now.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | April 1, 2010 9:32 PM | Report abuse

I'm skipping reading the comments that have been made thus far to say: "Give me an f-ing break." First the news that the platoon is going to be Harris and Tavares, and now this. There better be a trade in the works because this, on almost the last day of spring training, is an embarrassment. Is this a major league franchise?

Posted by: Section222 | April 1, 2010 9:40 PM | Report abuse

I'm wondering if they didn't have a trade in the pipe when they cut Dukes, and it fell through on them. Just speculating.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | April 1, 2010 9:47 PM | Report abuse

Still a step up from Kearns. Just saying.

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | April 1, 2010 9:52 PM | Report abuse

"I'm always happy," Guzman said, laughing.

Well, that makes one of us. Good for him.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | April 1, 2010 9:53 PM | Report abuse

On this we can agree -- it's a step up from Kearns. Maybe Paul Lo Duca is available for a tryout.

Posted by: Section222 | April 1, 2010 9:55 PM | Report abuse

The Bullpen reminds me of the Old Killer Bees of the Astros with Bruney, Burnett, Bergmann, and Batista. Hopefully they all turn out to be Killers!

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | April 1, 2010 10:01 PM | Report abuse

Alumni News:

¶ LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The Dodgers have chosen Blake DeWitt as their opening day second baseman and knuckleballer Charlie Harger as their No. 5 starter.

¶ Ronnie Belliard and newly acquired Jamey Carroll will serve as infield backups.

Posted by: Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me | April 1, 2010 10:14 PM | Report abuse

Wait, we have been wrong all along. 73 wins this season, and then 82 the next and then watch out Yankees, here we come in 2012! Right on track.

Wang and Z'mann get healthy. Chris Marrero achieves his promise. Burgess gets an eye for the plate. Harris gets hot, and shows corner OF prowess. Livo and Pudge return to the form of their youth. Detwiler overcomes shaky college and minor league stats, and mows down the hitters. Capps returns to his 2008 invincibility. Dunn plays 1B as if he owned the bag. Josh Willingham fulfills his promise and has a breakout 30 HR and 100 RBI year. The #3 and #4 and #5 starters are located in Hagerstown--they were there all along, but no one noticed!. It is all happening. Some of you idiots just do not see it, but you will be sorry!

Posted by: EdDC | April 1, 2010 10:19 PM | Report abuse

A horse is a horse,
of course of course

---

Tired of the whinnying? Horsebleep.
Myself is going back to the clubhouse now.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | April 1, 2010 9:32 PM

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 1, 2010 10:27 PM | Report abuse

Again it really looks like Rizzo and Riggleman are not on the same page. It's almost as if Riggleman wants to embarrass management by coming up with a new right fielder every week. Who can blame him?

Maybe Guzzie could be the third man in the booth??? What does his voice sound like? The Chief in Cuckoo's Nest?

Posted by: paulkp | April 1, 2010 10:34 PM | Report abuse

They must have really hated Dukes.

Posted by: Tank2 | April 1, 2010 11:04 PM | Report abuse

Hey, Felipe Lopez played a few innings in the outfield for us a few years back. Let's try him.

Posted by: Section222 | April 2, 2010 12:09 AM | Report abuse

Hey, look at the bright side: whenever Guz is in RF, it means Taveras isn't.

Posted by: none57 | April 2, 2010 12:24 AM | Report abuse

If Guzman no longer has the arm -- or the range -- to play shortstop, how can he have the arm -- or the range -- to play right field?

I believe Guzman will end up playing every day at second. I don't believe Adam Kennedy is going to be the answer as an everyday player. He's a role player -- at least on a good team. He's used to coming off the bench. While Guzman has been a starter his whole career.

This way, Guzman can give Desmond a day-off at shortstop every once in a while and Kennedy can fill-in at second. And when Kennedy is not in the starting lineup, he can come off the bench as a pinch-hitter or defensive replacement.

Maybe it's worth a try. But it looks to me like desperation.


Kevin Olson
Manassas, VA

Posted by: noslok | April 2, 2010 12:29 AM | Report abuse

didn't they used to have a guy in left with a pretty decent arm? hit with some pop, too, as I recall. what ever happened to him?

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | April 2, 2010 12:31 AM | Report abuse

Going going had Gonzalez on the bubble, but didn't Riggs says Alberto's got it made?

And I share the universal horror here at the right field situation.

Posted by: nats24 | April 2, 2010 12:34 AM | Report abuse

I'll take our Willy-Willie combo in right over this stiff:

From Indians.com:
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Players filtered in and out of manager Manny Acta's office all morning on Wednesday. And in the process, the Tribe's Opening Day roster was essentially set.

Rookie Michael Brantley made the club as the starting left fielder, and non-roster invitee Austin Kearns will be the club's fourth outfielder.

The Manny Acta-AK love affair continues. Lotsa luck. The Tribe is my bet to lose 100.

Posted by: Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me | April 2, 2010 1:22 AM | Report abuse

Gonzo's going north. This guy is harder to get rid of than Athlete's Foot, crabgrass and first wife's alimony.

Posted by: Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me | April 2, 2010 1:30 AM | Report abuse

Two days left before season's start.
Has anyone heard anything about Dukes?
Since almost everyone who regularly chimes in here thought nuking Dukes was a colossal mistake, um, then where's the interest from the other 29 teams?

Posted by: 1stBaseCoach | April 2, 2010 6:24 AM | Report abuse

For me, at least, that's not really the point. It's not that I thought Dukes was a superstar. It's that you don't dump your right fielder without having a better plan than we apparently had.

FWIW, I think Sec3's speculation that they may have had a trade in the works that fell through makes the most sense. At any rate, I'm clinging to that theory, because the alternative is that they're willing to play a stiff like Taveras because Dukes was too loud. Which: dumb.

Posted by: Section220 | April 2, 2010 6:41 AM | Report abuse

I am still hoping that Chris Duncan or Kevin Mench revive their careers. Both have played RF, although Mench a lot more. Duncan will be 29 in May, Mench is 31. Either would be a more palatable RF than Taveras, if not defensively. A healthy and bopping Duncan could hold down an outfield spot while we wait to see if Burgess can become a better hitter. Duncan also was capable of taking a walk, which Cristian Guzman certainly is not.

Until then, or until a trade, I hope Willie Harris holds down the position as well as possible. He deserves this chance, and we deserve not to see Willie Taveras, except as a defensive replacement for Josh Willingham late in games we are leading.

+1/2St.

Posted by: kevincostello | April 2, 2010 7:46 AM | Report abuse

Heck, why not use him at catcher or relief pitcher :)

Posted by: fearturtle44 | April 2, 2010 8:09 AM | Report abuse

1 - They must have REALLY been pissed at Dukes. According to MLB.com, as of this morning he's still available.

1A - JMax must have really, really stunk it up.

2 - Guzman in RF at anytime other than shagging flies during BP is a joke.

Unfortunately, I don't see breaking the 100 loss streak this season.

Posted by: tradervic1313 | April 2, 2010 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Come on Nats. Open up the wallet and make a trade to take on the salary of a legit starting right fielder.

Trade prospects if necessary.

Seems the organization has some arms in the minors that could be attractive to other teams.

Posted by: leopard09 | April 2, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

>"None of our guys other than Willy Taveras are really right fielders, anyway."

I just wanna cry.

Posted by: swang30

You're gonna go blind watching Willy Taveras hit.

Posted by: Brue | April 2, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

I understand Guzman being pushed out of the ss position but his bat alone dictates he play somewhere..he is an infielder, trying to make him an OF at this late stage of his career is sure to affect his hitting...as we will see very soon...bad move.....

Posted by: pentagon40 | April 3, 2010 12:33 AM | Report abuse

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