Guzman has underachieved since he signed a four-year, $16.8 million contract with the Nationals during the 2004 offseason. He spent most of the 2005 season batting below .200, and it took a .325 batting average during the month of September to get it up to .219 for the season.
One source familiar with the Nationals' thinking said that the team is not overly concerned if Guzman is lost for a long period of time, because Royce Clayton would be the starting shortstop, with Damian Jackson as the backup.
"If Guzman was hurt last year, [the Nationals] would be worried because that would have meant that Jamey Carroll would have been the starting shortstop," said the source.
Clayton, 36, was solid last year, hitting .270 with two home runs and 44 RBIs for the Diamondbacks. He signed a Minor League contract with the Nationals in February, believing all along that he could be the starting shortstop. This spring, Clayton has seen a lot of action, and is 4-for-21 (.190) with one RBI.
"I don't go by stats," said Clayton. "I'm getting my timing down on the field. I'm getting a little better at the plate. All the aches and pains are starting to leave. It's still pretty early, but I feel pretty good."
Not bad, but ... Outfielder Brandon Watson had his best game of the spring on Friday, going 3-for-5 with a run scored against the Astros to raise his Spring Training batting average to .375.
But manager Frank Robinson was not happy that Watson swung at the first pitch and flied out to left field in the fifth inning. And after he singled in the seventh, he didn't attempt to steal a base with Jose Vidro at the plate. Vidro then hit into a double play to end the inning.
"We'll take a little step at a time," said Robinson. "I see good things happening with him. We'll talk about it, and we'll keep getting him to think about those things. He's starting to get it together. If he leaves with us, he'll have it down pretty good."
Watson acknowledged that he should have been more patient at plate in the fifth inning but that he went back to his old style of being too aggressive. He also said that he should have made an attempt to steal.
"I should have been more patient in terms of taking pitches," said Watson. "I should have made the pitchers work a little bit. I saw a good pitch, put a swing on it. It doesn't matter what you do with that pitch. It's about doing what you are supposed to do. I'm going to have to fix that.
"As far as running, I slipped a couple of times and shut it down. But I should have been more aggressive, like Frank told me to be."
The Vidro report: The veteran second baseman participated in his third consecutive game, going 1-for-4 and playing six-plus innings, and said that his right knee, which has hampered him since the second half of 2003, was pain-free.
Batting left-handed, Vidro did something in the first inning he hasn't done since the first half of 2003 -- hit the ball to the opposite field with power. He ended up with a double in that inning.
"Everything is good," said Vidro. "I'm feeling great. I noticed a big difference in this second set of three games compared to the first set of three games. My legs are in great shape. I'm almost there."
Vidro is taking Saturday off and then plans to play three consecutive games, starting Sunday against the Marlins.
The big man: Right-hander Jon Rauch had his worst outing of the spring, giving up five runs on five hits in 3 1/3 innings. Four of those runs came on a grand slam by Charlton Jimerson in the top of the fourth inning.
Rauch said that he'd run out of gas by the time he entered the fourth inning.
"It has been months since I went more than three innings," said Rauch. "It showed with my pitching. The ball stayed up in the zone, and I couldn't locate anymore."
At this stage, Rauch considers himself to be a long reliever, but the Nationals are using him as a starter this spring.
"Right now, I would like to think of myself as a reliever and think I'm in the long spot. But if I keep pitching like this, who knows what's going to happen," said Rauch, who is out of Minor League options.
Despite the outing, Robinson liked what he saw during the first three innings of the game.
"He had good velocity on his fastball," said Robinson. "He had some good sliders. That's what I'm looking at right now. If he continues to throw the ball like that, he's going to be all right, because he will locate the ball a little bit better as he gets sharper."
Coming up: The Nationals return to Space Coast Stadium to host the Dodgers on Saturday at 1:05 p.m. ET. John Patterson will get the start, and Steve Watkins, Anastacio Martinez and Joe Horgan will pitch in relief.