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Nationals Notebook

Backup Infielder Is on Wish List

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 21, 2005; Page D05

VERO BEACH, Fla., March 20 -- When shortstop Cristian Guzman stumbled while rounding second base on a double Saturday against the Cleveland Indians, and the trainer had to come out to check on him, a lump formed in the throats of Washington Nationals management. Guzman was all right, but the moment served to highlight the club's need for a backup infielder who can play shortstop on a consistent basis.

A source said Sunday that the Nationals have had discussions with four clubs about trading for such a player: Atlanta's Wilson Betemit, San Diego's Damian Jackson, Seattle's Pokey Reese and the New York Mets' Chris Woodward. No deal is imminent, the source said, and the Nationals won't part with any pitchers who are ready for the major leagues.

The Nationals would like to get a reliable backup to shortstop Cristian Guzman, pictured above. (LM Otero - AP)

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"It's not a secret that we're looking for a backup shortstop," General Manager Jim Bowden said. "We don't know if we'll be able to find the piece in a deal that makes sense."

One thing is clear: The Nationals will not prematurely promote 19-year-old prospect Ian Desmond, who has been universally acknowledged as the surprise of spring training. Bowden reiterated this weekend that Desmond will begin the year at Class A Savannah, and Robinson concurs.

"No way," Manager Frank Robinson said when asked if Desmond might be considered. "He's the future. He has to go out and play and develop and learn, and you hope you're around to see it when he arrives."

Sunday's Best

Right fielder Jose Guillen showed off his much-discussed arm Sunday in a 9-3 win over Los Angeles, gunning down Dodgers second baseman Jeff Kent, who tried to go from first to third on a single by Milton Bradley. The throw -- a rope about six feet off the ground the entire way -- came in perfectly on one hop to nail Kent. "That's the way I used to throw 'em," Robinson said. . . . Backup catcher Gary Bennett broke open the game with a grand slam in the eighth, his first homer -- and just his second hit -- of the spring. . . . Right-hander T.J. Tucker, ineffective thus far, tossed a 1-2-3 ninth, striking out the final two batters. "I needed that," Tucker said.

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