Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The state of Cristian Guzman's right shoulder remains a question.
Turns out it may not be as simple as that.
There is some serious concern in Nationals camp right now about the veteran shortstop and the state of his surgically repaired right shoulder. At first, we figured it was no big deal because it was early in camp and he was taking things slow. Then we figured we couldn't get too worked up because he missed several days while his wife gave birth back in Washington.
Now, though, we're 16 days shy of the season opener and there's still reason to believe Guzman's shoulder isn't 100 percent.
How do we know this? If you happened to be at Space Coast Stadium in the top of the second today and saw Guzman's incredibly weak throw on Donnie Murphy's bouncer to the hole, you understand what this is all about.
For a couple of weeks now, manager Jim Riggleman has said he wanted to see how Guzman would react to a ball hit to his right, to see if he could cut loose and really fire a ball across the diamond with no troubles. Well, the opportunity arose at last today, and Guzman basically took a pass. He slung a half-hearted throw that wound up well high and right of first base for an error.
The immediate question: Was that a case of Guzman not WANTING to make that throw, or not being ABLE to make that throw?
"I think not wanting to," Riggleman said. "I think when he gets over that hurdle in his mind and realizes he can throw it over there without having a problem, you'll see him do it. But right now, he must be a little tentative, because he didn't let that ball go."
Only Guzman knows for sure what's going on, and unfortunately there was no opportunity to ask him today. He had already packed up and left the ballpark by the time the game ended.
But make no mistake: Team officials are concerned, all the more reason to wonder whether Ian Desmond might manage to unseat the $8 million Guzman (who turns 32 tomorrow) as Washington's starting shortstop come Opening Day.
Asked if there's any chance Guzman might be kept on the team only for his bat (ie. as a pinch-hitting specialist), Riggleman replied: "I hadn't really thought about that. I don't really envision any scenario in which he's not with us."
Really, the Nationals' only options (if they decide Guzman isn't the starting shortstop) are to 1) place him on the DL, 2) try to trade him to another club or 3) cut him and eat the $8 million. He has no real value as a bench player, certainly not at that price.
So the club has about two weeks to decide whether Guzman can cut it in the field or not.
"That's what we've got to determine in the next couple weeks," Riggleman said. "If he airs it out, is there going to be no pain? Or is there going to be some pain? I think he was just tentative on the throw and didn't want to let it go, and the result was what you saw. ...
"We're going to get to the point here pretty soon where we'll have to test it out a little more thoroughly, see how he's going to respond."