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NATIONALS NOTEBOOK

Guzmán Back In Lineup After 6-Game Absence

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By Zach Berman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 22, 2008

PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 21 -- Cristian Guzmán finished playing cards almost three hours before his return to the Washington Nationals' lineup for their game against the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday night, then visited his locker for a moment to prepare for the batting cage.

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Guzmán told a reporter waiting by his chair that he would answer questions upon returning from batting practice, in part because he had work to do and in part because he needed the work to answer the questions that were coming.

"Compared to [the past] few days, it's better today," Guzmán said after reaffirming his comfort in the indoor batting cages.

After missing six games with a left thumb injury, Guzmán was penciled in as the starting shortstop in the No. 2 spot in the Nationals' batting order.

"He's wearing some thumb guards and stuff to try to help him out," Nationals Manager Manny Acta said. "He's feeling a lot better, especially from the right side."

The right side is where the switch-hitting Guzmán batted Thursday night against left-handed pitcher Jamie Moyer.

Guzmán's return does not necessarily guarantee a daily spot in the lineup. With Guzmán signed to a two-year contract extension and the Nationals' season long lost, Acta will be prudent in using his all-star shortstop.

"We're going to be careful from now on," Acta said. "It doesn't mean he's going to be out there every day."

The acquisition of Anderson Hernández -- who started at second base on Thursday night-- and presence of Pete Orr give Acta options at shortstop. September call-ups are also quickly approaching.

"Mostly, it'll be how he feels," Acta said. "We're not going to push him in this situation."

The bright spot is there is no structural damage with the thumb, so while it might be painful, the injury will not worsen by Guzmán returning to the field.

"Right now, we're just happy there's no damage on the cartilage," Acta said. "It's just the soft tissue around it. But if he feels uncomfortable, why push it? I don't think it can get any worse, but that pain can get bothersome at times."


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