Notes: New 'Guzie' in town for Nats

Notes: New 'Guzie' in town for Nats

VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals shortstop Cristian Guzman arrived in camp on Tuesday morning ready to forget about the 2005 season and go back to being the player that helped the Twins win three consecutives division titles. He also wants to prove that he is worth the four-year, $16.8 million contract he signed with the Nationals.

Guzman lost eight pounds and had laser eye surgery in the offseason. He acknowledged that he had a tough time seeing the baseball with contact lenses, which might explain why he hit .219 with four home runs and 31 RBIs in his first season in Washington.

The eye surgery appeared to work, at least for one day, as Guzman was hitting mostly line drives in batting practice.

"Last year is the past," Guzman said. "This is 2006. Everything is new. Everybody is going to know the Guzman of a couple of years ago. That's all I have on my mind. The fans are going to enjoy the new Guzie. I have a little surprise for the them."

"[Tuesday] is the first day I took batting practice in the [United States], and I can see the ball real good. I took BP in [the Dominican Republic], but it was a little bit dark," Guzman added.

Guzman declined to say what the surprise was, but there is a possibility that he could lose his starting job if he doesn't perform well. He will be competing against Royce Clayton, who signed a Minor League deal with the Nationals on Feb. 2. Clayton is coming off a season in which he hit .270 with two home runs and 44 RBIs with the Diamondbacks.

Guzman said he was unfazed by the competition. Asked if the Nationals were playing physiological games with him, Guzman said, "That doesn't work for me. They can bring in [Derek] Jeter. This is the new Guzie right now."

Injury report: Robert Fick had an X-ray taken on his right elbow on Tuesday. The left-handed-hitting catcher/first baseman has had soreness in the elbow since he arrived in camp. Fick feels the injury was caused by lifting weights during the offseason.

Fick did work out during the day, but he didn't catch any of the pitchers nor participate in the catching drills.

"I never had an elbow problem before," Fick said. "I think I just did it lifting too much this offseason. I'll be fine, though. I'm going to get some treatment."

Right-hander Brain Lawrence played catch on Tuesday morning and said that his shoulder feels much better. He has had shoulder stiffness after a winter of inactivity. The stiffness is not considered serious.

Pitching coach Randy St. Claire said he hopes to have Lawrence go back to his regularly scheduled bullpen session by Thursday.

"Hopefully, I'll be able to extend it out playing catch [on Wednesday], and get on the hill the day after that," Lawrence said. "It's just a little slow getting into it, but it will be there."

One man's observation: St. Claire raved about the way Tony Armas Jr. has pitched on the practice mound this spring. Armas reminded St. Claire of how the right-hander pitched before he had rotator cuff surgery three years ago. In early 2003, Armas was on his way to having the best season of his career before the shoulder problems came along.

"He always had the long arm action," St. Claire said. "It was free and loose. Nothing looked like it was forced or guarded. He looked very good."

A new routine: Manager Frank Robinson would like the Nationals to be a more aggressive team on the bases. For most of last season, Robinson gave the green light to steal bases, but the players didn't take advantage of the situation and finished next to last in the Major Leagues with 45 stolen bases. Too often, the Nationals were looking for base hits to advance runners.

"We had the personnel last year to steal bases, but it's a mind set," Robinson said. "Do they want to run? Will they take the chance and try to steal a base? That's what we have to instill in this baseball club before we go north. We have to make them more aggressive and understand situations and be willing to steal a base in the right situations."

Around the horn: Right-hander Felix Rodriguez has secured his visa and will report to camp on Thursday. ... Of all the position players on the 40-man roster, Marlon Anderson, Tony Blanco, Larry Broadway, Jose Vidro, Frank Diaz, Alfonso Soriano and Michael Tucker are not in camp. Position players are not expected to report until Thursday.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.