Barry Larkin, the former shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds who is contemplating a comeback with the Washington Nationals, said yesterday that it will be "at least two weeks" before he makes a decision on whether he would play with the team this season.

"I've got to try to get myself in shape," Larkin said by phone last evening. "I'm not worried about my wind, but as far as being in baseball shape, I'd have to get my timing, my hands, to the level I'd need them to be."

Larkin is coaching at a youth basketball tournament in Virginia Beach, and said he wouldn't return home to Orlando for "another week or so." Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden, who held the same position in Cincinnati during much of Larkin's 19-year career there, has been calling Larkin regularly in an attempt to woo him back to the field.

Asked if he is considering returning because he is itching to play or because of Bowden's calls, Larkin responded: "It's because Jim's calling me. He feels like I could help. But before I commit to anything, I want to make sure I could help."

Larkin, 41, could help the Nationals at shortstop, a position at which regular Cristian Guzman -- hitting .188 -- was benched earlier this week. Last season, his last with the Reds, Larkin hit .289 with eight homers and 44 RBI in 111 games.

Guillen Ailing

Right fielder Jose Guillen said he would have a shot to relieve pain in his ailing left shoulder, and he could, potentially, miss a day or two. Guillen went 0 for 4 in last night's 3-2 loss to Houston, and his average dropped to .299, under .300 for the first time since June 21.

"The outside pitch has been giving me problems all these series," Guillen said. "I just cannot get to it, and that's the way they've been pitching me. I've just been swinging like a little girl, and not getting any hits and not helping this team win right now." . . .

Ryan Zimmerman, the Nationals' first-round pick in last month's draft, was 8 for his last 24 with two doubles and two homers in his last seven games at Class AA Harrisburg, raising his average to .247.