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Notes: Guzman having a blast

Notes: Guzman having a blast

WASHINGTON -- For the first time since putting on a Nationals uniform, shortstop Cristian Guzman said he is having fun on the baseball field. It helps that he is healthy for the first time since signing the four-year, $16.8 million deal with Washington after the 2004 season.

During the first year of the contract, Guzman hit .219 and later said he was bothered by a sore right shoulder and bad back. Guzman then missed the entire 2006 season because of a tear in the shoulder.

After one game in '07, Guzman went on the disabled list because of a left hamstring strain, but since returning to the lineup on May 7, he was 8-for-24 (.333) entering Monday's game.

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"I have a happy face," Guzman said. "I smile with everybody. Something had to change. I feel great -- my legs, my arm. Everything is good."

There is another reason Guzman has a bounce in his step this year. He credits manager Manny Acta for being positive despite the fact that the team was 12-25 entering Monday's action.

"Manny roots for everybody," Guzman said. "He comes around the dugout, the clubhouse. He says, 'Why do you have to be sad? Be happy. Play the game.' Look at the clubhouse: Everybody listens to music, watch TV. We play a little bit of cards. We come here on time. Everybody is here at 1:30, 2 [p.m.]. We go to the cage."

Injury report: While fielding ground balls, Nick Johnson acknowledged that he has problems going side to side because his right leg, which he broke last September, is sore.

Johnson also said if his leg continues to get better, he could be in the batting cage by the end of the week. Currently, Johnson is hitting off a batting tee.

Johnson would not give a timetable for his return, but he expects to be ready to play sometime after the All-Star break.

Casto sent down: Following Monday's 2-1 victory, the Nationals optioned outfielder/infielder Kory Casto to Triple-A Columbus and are expected to activate right-hander Jerome Williams from the disabled list to start on Tuesday. Williams has missed two starts because of a sprained left ankle.

Casto, 25, hit .130 (7-for-54) with three RBIs in 16 games during two separate stints with Washington this season. In his second stint, Casto was able to pull the ball, something he couldn't do after his first call-up, but he was still overmatched. After drawing a lot of walks in the Minors, Casto had only two free passes and struck 17 times in 54 at-bats with the Nationals.

It was an accident: Braves right-hander John Smoltz dislocated his right pinky after bumping into Nationals outfielder Austin Kearns on a rundown play in the bottom of the seventh. An angry Smoltz initially thought Kearns was trying to jar the ball loose, but the replay showed that Kearns was trying to get out of the way.

"It was heat of the moment, so I think he was upset with the whole situation," Kearns said. "He was upset that he had to come out. He is a competitor. It's just him. I didn't think I did anything wrong. I felt for Smoltz. He is one of the best. I enjoyed competing against him. I was hoping he didn't think it was anything dirty. I sure didn't think so."

Stat of the day: The Nationals are 8-1, when they score five or more runs.

Did you know? Catcher Jesus Flores is hitting .409 (9-for-22) with four RBIs in his seven starts behind the plate.

Coming up: The Nationals play the second of a four-game series against the Braves on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. ET. Williams will face Braves right-hander Tim Hudson.

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

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