Guzman building up strength in shoulder

Guzman building up strength in shoulder

PORT ST. LUCIE , Fla. -- Nationals shortstop Cristian Guzman played in his first Spring Training game Saturday against the Mets, going 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored while serving as the designated hitter.

Guzman, 31, is expected to play shortstop against the Marlins on Monday, but acknowledged that he still needs to build strength in his right shoulder, which was surgically repaired after last season.

"[The shoulder] is all right," Guzman said. "I'm not having pain, but when I throw, the arm is a little weak. [I need a] couple of more days."

The 2010 season is an important one for Guzman. He is a free agent after the season and made it known that he wants remain to healthy. In four of the past five years with Washington, Guzman has been hampered by shoulder, hamstring and thumb injuries.

The only year Guzman was injury free was in 2008, when he hit .316 with nine home runs and 55 RBIs. He also made his second All-Star appearance that year.

"I don't want to be hurt. I just want play," Guzman said. "I'm not thinking about next year. I'm thinking about this year -- do my job and winning some more games. It's important."

During the offseason, the Nationals thought about switching Guzman from shortstop to second base and making Ian Desmond the regular shortstop. The feeling was that Guzman lacked range and didn't have the arm strength to play shortstop. But after realizing that Guzman had foot and shoulder problems, the team changed its mind and signed second baseman Adam Kennedy to a one-year, $1.25 million contract.

Now Washington believes Guzman will be healthy enough to play shortstop once his shoulder is 100 percent. But he has competition when it comes to playing every day. The team has not ruled out starting Desmond if he outplays Guzman during the exhibition season. Trying to trade Guzman would be difficult because he's making $8 million this season.

Asked about the possibility of Desmond playing short, Guzman said, "That's why I don't read the papers. It doesn't matter what they [say], you [say], everybody [says]. That's why I don't read the papers. This game is for everybody. That's OK. [Desmond] is a pretty good kid. He can play."

Desmond continued to show that he belongs in the big leagues, going 2-for-4 with an RBI on Sunday against the Mets.

"Ian is playing very well," manager Jim Riggleman said. "Ian is a great athlete. He plays hard, and he's running hard."

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