Looking Ahead, Guzmán Could Be a Second Option

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 12, 2009

MIAMI, Sept. 11 -- Through 10 big league seasons and 1,225 games started, Cristian Guzmán knew only one spot on the field, shortstop. He never even contemplated an alternative. But on Thursday, those in charge of Guzmán's future -- General Manager Mike Rizzo and interim manager Jim Riggleman -- brought the shortstop into an office and met with him briefly to open a new possibility. The Washington Nationals, potentially, want to move Guzmán to second base in 2010.

For now, the move remains only a possibility, dependent on offseason free agent activity and trades. The Nationals have determined, unequivocally, that they must acquire a starting-caliber middle infielder. If they obtain a second baseman, Guzmán will remain at short. But if they find a shortstop -- and Rizzo would prefer a defensive specialist -- Guzmán, whose two-year, $16 million contract runs through 2010, will play second.

"I think he was taken by surprise by it," Rizzo said. "And that was another reason why we posed the question to him now rather than later. You know, his response was, he's never played second base before. I gave him a laundry list of great players who have continued their careers moving from shortstop to second base, and it kind of sunk in and made some sense."

On Friday, Guzmán, traditionally reluctant to speak with the media, declined comment on the matter.

Though Guzmán, 31, remains one of Washington's top hitters, his range his slipped this year, and Rizzo acknowledged that a shift to second could add years to Guzmán's career. Still, Rizzo added that Washington is comfortable with having Guzmán return to shortstop in 2010.

"I think Guzy is a reliable guy at shortstop," Rizzo said. "He's not the rangy guy he used to be, obviously. But to answer your question, if we get a good defensive second baseman that's defensively oriented, I am comfortable with him" at shortstop.

Innings for Desmond

The Nationals will begin to give Ian Desmond, the shortstop recalled from Class AAA Syracuse on Tuesday, some practice time at second base. This will merely enable the team to potentially get him some in-game innings at second this September. The move is entirely short-term; both Riggleman and Rizzo view Desmond's future at shortstop. . . .

The likelihood of a late-September appearance for injured outfielder Austin Kearns (thumb) has become less likely. His right thumb remains too bruised for him to swing a bat. . . .

Dmitri Young visited Land Shark Stadium on Friday to catch up with his old teammates. Oft-injured, Young spoke with delight of his summer away from baseball and said he hadn't yet made up his mind whether he wanted to play in 2010.

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