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Healthier Numbers For Guzman

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By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 26, 2007

ST. LOUIS, May 25 -- There is more to the rejuvenation of Washington Nationals shortstop Cristian Guzman than simply his batting average, which fell from .275 to .260 after an 0-for-4 performance Friday night in a 5-4 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. Both Guzman and Manager Manny Acta believe that Guzman is finally healthy, and that simply makes him happy.

"I just go out there, play and have some fun," Guzman said. "When you [are] hurt, you're not the same. When you got everything healthy, you can play around and do everything."

Guzman, who hit a sacrifice fly in the victory, is playing better than at anytime in his brief Washington tenure. At no point during his disastrous 2005 season did the switch-hitter climb above .247, and he spent as many days below .200 as he did above, finishing at .219. Last spring, he complained of shoulder pain, and doctors found a torn labrum. He missed all of 2006. Then, on Opening Day, he strained his left hamstring.

Now, Guzman is in the lineup every day, hitting second. Entering Friday, he had reached base safely in 14 of the 17 games in which he had played since returning from the disabled list, and he hit his first homer of the year Thursday in Cincinnati.

Because Guzman's body of work in Washington is so poor, his start to this season -- which falls below the National League averages for No. 2 hitters, a .283 batting average and .348 on-base percentage (Guzman's is now .321) -- can be embraced. Acta just wants to see the same smiling version of Guzman that has been around so far.

"He's got a lot of energy," Acta said. "I hope he can keep it up."

Return in Question

When right-hander Jason Bergmann went on the disabled list earlier this month because of swelling in his elbow, club officials thought he would be able to return the day he was eligible, next Wednesday. But Bergmann had fluid drained from his elbow Thursday and received a cortisone shot, and his return remains in question.

Club officials want injured starters to make minor league rehab appearances before returning, and Bergmann must throw a bullpen session -- as yet unscheduled -- before he does that.


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