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Guzman Hurts Hamstring; Hernandez Back at Second Base

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By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 14, 2009

One of the finest games of Cristian Guzmán's career -- the shortstop went 5 for 5 -- ended prematurely and might be his last for a short while. During his final at-bat in yesterday's 9-8 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies, the Washington Nationals shortstop strained his left hamstring and exited the game for a pinch runner. He will be reevaluated today.

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Though Manager Manny Acta called the injury "better than we anticipated," Guzmán was unable to guess how much time he might miss.

Guzmán said he first felt the hamstring pop while leaving the batter's box, and then felt it pop again when rounding first base with a single.

"I try to do good for the team, and then this happens," Guzmán said. "I want to be out there every day."

The situation elongates the list of injury problems Washington has had this year with its middle infielders. Indeed, Anderson Hernández returned to second base yesterday largely because the Nationals had just about run out of others able to play there. Faced with playing either their fourth-string second baseman or rushing the return of their first-string second baseman, the Nationals decided to let their original starter finish his rehab assignment by playing big league games.

Hernández, who strained his left hamstring on March 25, was activated from the disabled list before yesterday's game and immediately inserted into the lineup. Hernández had been scheduled to play several more games with Class AAA Syracuse. He struggled in his first game back, though, committing two errors on routine grounders and going 1 for 4.

Hernández was promoted back to the big leagues because the Nationals were already without second basemen Ronnie Belliard and Willie Harris. Belliard has been slow to recover from a back injury. Then, on Sunday, the Nationals lost Harris, who pulled his left oblique muscle. Hernández got word shortly thereafter: Harris was heading to the disabled list; the Nationals needed help.

"I expected to play a couple more games downstairs," Hernández said.

Asked about his recovery, Hernández said: "Well, with that kind of injury you have to be careful; you can't be crazy doing stuff. But I'm moving. I'm taking ground balls. I turned a double play already, and it doesn't bother me."

During the first week of the season, the Nationals gained an appreciation for Hernández by way of his absence. Belliard and Harris have gone a combined 3 for 22 this year, and neither has comparable range at second.

Relief Pitchers

The Nationals had asked President Obama to throw yesterday's first pitch. When he declined, the Nationals instead had five first pitches. As part of the pregame ceremony, representatives from the U.S. Navy, Air Force, Army, Marine Corps and Coast Guard each threw a ball. The five pitches were caught by Lastings Milledge, Acta, Nick Johnson, Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman.


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