Wrist to keep Guillen out three months

Guillen out three months with wrist injury

VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals outfielder Jose Guillen will be out for at least three months with a left wrist injury.

The news comes less than a week after the team learned that right-hander Brian Lawrence will be out for the season with a torn rotator cuff and labrum.

Guillen started feeling pain in the wrist two weeks ago, but it grew more intense after he took his first batting practice of the spring on Wednesday. Results of X-rays taken that day were negative.

Guillen had an MRI on Thursday, and it was revealed on Friday morning that one of the tendons in the wrist is damaged. Guillen, who originally injured the wrist while lifting weights, has tenosynovitis of the extensor tendon.

Dr. Edward St. Mary has recommended a surgical procedure to repair the damaged tendon, but Guillen said that he will go to Baltimore on Saturday to see Dr. Thomas Graham for a second opinion. Dr. St. Mary said that if Guillen has surgery, he would be back on the field by June 1.

Upon hearing the news, Nationals general manager Jim Bowden expressed his frustration.

"This is a devastating blow to the team," Bowden said. "Good teams overcome adversity. Players in the organization will get the first opportunity to replace him, although we will look outside [the organization]."

Guillen is already recovering from left shoulder surgery, which was performed in November, and he said that the shoulder is at 75 percent. Guillen injured the shoulder in June 2005, while sliding into home against the Blue Jays.

Prior to Friday's news, Guillen wasn't expected to play in an exhibition game until mid-March.

Guillen told MLB.com that he refuses to believe that he will be out of action that long, saying that the wrist pain is nothing compared to the shoulder problems he experienced during the 2005 season. Guillen currently has a brace on the wrist.

"I don't know what was said, because I feel fine," Guillen said. "I'm a little sore. To tell you the truth, I'm not counting myself out for three months until I get my second opinion. I know myself and the type of person that I am. I work hard to be where I am. I'm not going to consider surgery until I have the second opinion.

"Losing three months would be like missing the whole year," Guillen added. "I don't think I could handle that. I would go a little crazy. I don't think I'm that patient. I have to do what's best for me and my family. I'm really confident. I don't think I'm going to miss that much time. I really believe in myself. I'm the one that is going to make the decision on how I feel."

The news of the injury's severity means two things: The Nationals need a power-hitting outfielder to replace Guillen and they now need Alfonso Soriano to play the outfield more than ever before.

One baseball source familiar with the Nationals said that the club is not interested in pursuing Sammy Sosa, who has already turned down two offers from the team. Instead, the Nationals may attempt to acquire Devil Rays outfielder Aubrey Huff or Reds outfielder Willie Mo Pena.

Huff has driven in 92 or more runs in each of the last three seasons, but he makes $6.75 million, and according to team president Tony Tavares, the team -- for the time being -- is not willing to add more payroll for an outfielder. Washington is already at its $60 million limit.

Pena has been on the Nationals' radar since last year, and Bowden has always felt that the 24-year-old has the potential of being another Sosa. However, the Nationals are unwilling to give up the pitching prospects that the Reds need and would likely demand.

"You are not going to replace a Jose Guillen by just buying a player," Tavares said. "I also don't want to give away prospects. Let's see what we have in the outfield first."

Tavares would like the Nationals to look at the many outfielders that they have in camp, including Brandon Watson, Ryan Church, Alex Escobar, Marlon Byrd and veteran Michael Tucker.

Watson, a leading candidate to play one of the outfield spots, is going to be given a long look this spring, because he is the only true leadoff hitter in the organization.

Church, a favorite of Bowden's, is a player who is expected to get significant playing time during the season. Bowden feels that Church has the potential to be a Jim Edmonds-type player. The GM also believes that Church should be a front-runner to play every day because of the progress that he made last year, when he hit .287 with nine home runs and 42 RBIs.

Byrd has had experience as an everyday player in the past. The Nationals are hoping that, with hitting coach Mitchell Page's tutelage, Byrd can become the productive player that he was with the Phillies in 2003, when he hit .303 with seven home runs and 45 RBIs.

Escobar is considered a sleeper in this pool of outfielders. Bowden has always liked his potential, but Escobar -- at one time considered the Mets' top prospect -- has been injured throughout most of his career.

Tucker, who played for Bowden in Cincinnati, was signed this offseason as insurance for Guillen.

Then there's Soriano's situation. If Guillen is out as long as he is expected to be, Soriano will be the lone power hitter on the team. Washington wants Soriano to play the outfield, but he has declined to do so, instead wanting to remain at second base. The problem is that the Nationals told Jose Vidro that the position belongs to him. Bowden has repeatedly said that he will not trade Soriano.

"Hopefully, Soriano can decide to play the outfield and he can be the guy [who provides power]," Vidro said. "We need Soriano to play the outfield. If he doesn't, this team is probably the same as last year [in terms of lack of offense]."

Bowden told MLB.com on Thursday that the Soriano situation may not be settled until Opening Day, when the Nationals will play the Mets at Shea Stadium on April 3. Soriano is currently preparing to play in the World Baseball Classic for the Dominican Republic.

"[The decision] might be 10 minutes before game time," Bowden said.

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