Notes: Guzman returns to Metrodome

Notes: Guzman returns to Dome

MINNEAPOLIS -- For six years, Cristian Guzman showcased his slick fielding and speed on the basepaths when he was the shortstop for the Minnesota Twins. This weekend, he wants to continue showing his current team what he's capable of and maybe remind his former home fans and teammates what they're missing.

"It seems a little strange," Guzman said. "I just want to come out and do what I do."

As of late, that has been plenty.

Since returning on May 7 from an Opening Day hamstring injury, Guzman entered Friday's game hitting .419 (18-for-43) in his last 10 contests. Prior to Thursday's 0-for-3 performance, Guzman had at least two hits in seven of nine games.

That is what the Nationals expected of Guzman when he signed a four-year, $16.8 million contract before the 2005 season.

Instead, his first two year's in the nation's capital were seasons he'd rather forget.

He hit a career-worst .219 two seasons ago. Last year, he played in just five Spring Training games before a right shoulder injury ultimately led to season-ending surgery on May 8.

"The biggest reason for his turnaround has been his health," said manager Manny Acta. "He was hurting and he tried to play through it because of the big contract that he had just signed. ... Obviously when you're not playing and making all that money, people don't feel that comfortable. This year, it's been day and night."

Guzman, who received a warm ovation before his first-inning single, hit .266 in Minnesota, including .302 in his 2001 All-Star season. Never known as a power hitter, Guzman was adept at hitting line drives that, because of the Metrodome's speedy artificial surface, would roll more quickly to the wall. He racked up 61 triples as a Twin, including a league-best 20 in 1999. The team created a 2003 superhero figurine of him with a winged helmet like the mythical Mercury of Roman mythology.

He has no visions of recreating the past.

"I just want to do what I've been doing the last month," he said. "I want to play my same game. I don't want to really change nothing."

Lopez sits: Felipe Lopez was not in Friday's starting lineup, but it had nothing to do with his not running out a ground ball on Thursday. Ronnie Belliard, who replaced Lopez on Thursday, started in his place on Friday.

"As far as I'm concerned, what happened yesterday is over," Acta said. "It has more to do with Belliard, and how he's been playing."

Belliard, whom Acta plans to start in two of the three games this series, is 9-for-18 with one home run and one double in his last eight games, including 7-for-13 in his last three starts.

Lopez, 2-for-26 in his last six games, has looked a little frustrated at times this year, according to Acta, who isn't worried about the infielder's performance.

"He's been hitting the ball hard with no luck whatsoever, but he keeps working hard. He's going to snap out of it."

Dome concerns: Friday's game was the Nationals' first on an artificial surface this season. It came in a stadium that can often be hard on outfielders unaccustomed to the Teflon roof.

Austin Kearns and Ryan Church took extra outfield practice before the game to get adjusted to seeing the ball off the bat. Acta said they had more trouble with the lights than the roof.

"Some of those guys that have been here before like Guzzy and Dmitri [Young] have tried to help the guys out, but you still have to go out there, be able to see the ball and pick it up," Acta said.

Even All-Stars can have trouble in the dome.

"This is Torii Hunter's house, and sometimes even he loses them," said Tony Batista.

Maxwell honored: Hagerstown outfielder Justin Maxwell was named the Topps South Atlantic League Player of the Month for May.

Maxwell, a fourth-round pick of the Nationals in 2005, hit .320 (31-for-97) with seven home runs, five doubles and 18 RBIs in the month. He had 10 multihit games while posting a .411 on-base percentage for the Class A Hagerstown Suns.

Escobar in Potomac: Alex Escobar was scheduled to join Class A Potomac prior to Friday's game on a rehab assignment.

The 28-year-old outfielder went down with a right quadriceps injury in Spring Training. He played in just 33 games last season because of hamstring injuries and a separated right shoulder, from which he hasn't fully recovered.

"The last time we checked with the trainers, he was throwing 120 feet, but he still needs to have some consistency," Acta said. "It's about having to react to a play and being able to throw the ball without having any fear of hurting yourself. That's what we're trying to get to. I don't have a timetable."

Stat of the day: This weekend's series is the first for a Washington club since the expansion Senators split a series at Metropolitan Stadium July 27-28, 1971.

Stat of the day, part II: Entering Friday's game, Washington had beaten every Major League team at least once, except Minnesota.

Coming up: The Nationals and Twins will play the second game of a three-game set at 7:10 p.m. ET on Saturday at the Metrodome. Right-hander Levale Speigner (1-2, 9.10 ERA) is expected to face Minnesota ace Johan Santana (6-5, 3.30), the 2006 American League Cy Young Award winner.

Mike Cook is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.