Guzman's Milestone Lifts Team, Spirits

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 2, 2007

Cristian Guzman's single in the fifth inning of the Washington Nationals' 4-3 victory over the San Diego Padres last night -- a 10-inning affair in which Guzman scored the winning run -- was the 1,000th of his career, a fact that brought a smile to his face afterward.

"I feel happy for that," Guzman said.

For perhaps the first time in his tumultuous stay in Washington, Guzman has a plethora of choices about which to be happy. His 4-for-5 performance last night, one in which he scored three runs and stole a base, lifted his average to .316, a far cry from the .219 season in 2005 that, to this point, defines his tenure here. He sat out all of 2006 with a shoulder injury.

"I hope he can keep it up," Manager Manny Acta said, "because he's got the ability to help us in the long run."

Guzman has maintained that his healthy shoulder has made him much more confident. But he said last night that extra work in batting practice is helping as well.

"I feel a little more comfortable than a couple years ago," he said. "I work a lot extra. That's one of those things that makes you a little more comfortable over there."

Johnson Makes Progress

First baseman Nick Johnson made another step in his recovery from his broken right leg, taking batting practice on the field for the first time.

"It makes everybody happy just to see him do that," Acta said. "I saw some of the players come out just to see him do that."

Johnson had been hitting in the cages underneath the stadium, but he said it's different on the field.

"I feel better," Johnson said. "Getting to that side [on his right leg upon follow through], it's still weak, still wobbly."

The club continues to insist there is no timetable for Johnson's return. He said it will take him time to get his swing honed, and Acta said Johnson would likely need 30 at-bats in the minor leagues before he's ready for the majors.

Even with the latest step, mobility in the field is where Johnson must improve most before he considers a return.

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