Washington Nationals shortstop Cristian Guzman, who has missed the past five games with a strained hamstring, could return to the lineup during the series with the New York Mets, which will conclude tomorrow.

Guzman took grounders and ran in the outfield yesterday afternoon, his most strenuous activity since straining his left hamstring while running out a sacrifice bunt against the Pittsburgh Pirates last Thursday. Tim Abraham, the Nationals' head trainer, said the area of soreness is shrinking.

"We're headed down the right road," he said.

Guzman will run before tonight's game to test the hamstring again before making a decision.

Guardado Watch

The Nationals have inquired about Seattle left-hander Eddie Guardado, who could be a stabilizing force in the team's effective but overworked bullpen, a baseball source said. Guardado, known as "Every Day Eddie" from his days in Minnesota, has converted 20 of 21 save with a 1.55 ERA opportunities for the last-place Mariners, who could be shopping for prospects. Though Washington's closer is all-star Chad Cordero, Guardado was one of the best setup men in the game for the Twins from 1995 to 2001 before becoming a closer. . . .

Cordero, who converted all 15 of his save opportunities and didn't allow an earned run in June, was named the National League's pitcher of the month.