VIERA, Fla., Feb. 23 -- Every season, it seems, Alex Escobar arrives at spring training with the same story.

"For the last eight years, Escobar has been one of the highly touted hitting prospects, whether he's been with the Mets or the Indians and now over here," Washington Nationals Manager Manny Acta said. "He just hasn't been able to stay on the field. You just can't hand out jobs to him because you don't know if he's going to be able to play."

So it is this season. Escobar is recovering from a separated shoulder that ended his season last August. He is throwing from 110 feet, but he will serve as a designated hitter when games begin Friday.

"It's not because I'm afraid to," Escobar said. "It's just because I'm doing the right thing in order to be where I need to be at the end."

The goal is for Escobar, who is competing for a backup outfielder spot, to play the outfield by March 15.

Either way, Escobar said he is carrying a good feeling into this season. In 33 games for the Nationals last season, he hit .356 with four homers and 18 RBI, which he considers more important than the fact that he had been on the disabled list five times in five seasons.

"I had a good approach, and it worked," he said, "so I'm going to keep it the same."

Guzman ThrowsShortstop Cristian Guzman threw for the first time on Friday since arriving in camp, taking infield practice and lobbing throws to first base. He received a shot in order to have an MRI exam on his surgically repaired right shoulder Monday, and he won't throw all out for several days, but he said he felt relatively good afterward. "After you throw the first day," he said, "you feel a little bit weird."

Acta said Guzman will likely get some time as a designated hitter so that he can work on his timing at the plate while protecting his shoulder.

Kasten, Lerner VisitNationals President Stan Kasten completed a two-day visit here Friday, one in which he addressed the team and met with officials who are overhauling Space Coast Stadium. He was replaced Friday afternoon by Mark Lerner, one of the team's owners, who came to see the renovations.

Brevard County put $2.6 million into the project that included new seats, but Lerner said his family added "a lot more."

"It looks like a different place," Lerner said.

Off Base

SS Cristian Guzman's on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) in 2005 was .574, worst among National League regulars. Next worst: the .654 of Houston SS Adam Everett.