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10/10/07 The Curious Case of Cristian Guzman???

      Ryan Zimmerman, Cristian Guzman, Ronnie Belliard and Nick Johnson? Zimmerman, Guzman, Felipe Lopez, and Dmitri Young? Zimmerman, Lopez, Belliard, Johnson? Zimmerman, Guzman, Belliard, DY? Zimmerman, Lopez, Belliard, DY?

      Will it come down to who's healthy again, or have some players earned the shot at starting infield positions over others? Can Nick Johnson make it back? Can DY put up the same numbers in a part-time role if Johnson does? But the biggest question mark in the lineup in my opinion, still remains Cristian Guzman...

     When polled in late August, Federalbaseball's voters chose an infield of Zimmerman, Lopez, Belliard and DY for next season, (given the options listed above, among others), but all signs from the Nationals brass, point to Cristian Guzman's having the shortstop job to lose if he's able to finally stay healthy for a full season in DC in '08.

     Signed to a 4-year $16.8 million dollar deal in November of '04, after Guzman had posted a .274 AVG, with 31 doubles, 4 triples, 8 HR's, and 46 RBI's in 145 games in his final season in Minnesota. In his first year in DC, Guzman sruggled to a .219 AVG, with 19 doubles, 6 triples, 4 HR's and 31 RBI's in 142 games.

     2006 was a complete wash. Guzman had shoulder surgery in the offseason after the '05 campaign, and was rehabbing in the Minors when he reinjured the shoulder and went under the knife a second time.

     Guzman was back and ready for the 2007 Nationals season, but the shortstop injured his hamstring on Opening Day, and didn't return to the lineup until May 7th in Milwaukee. Over the next 42 games, Cristian Guzman hit .336 with 57 hits in 170 at bats, 6 doubles, 6 triples, 2 homers and 14 RBI's, and Gumzan even took over the leadoff spot for a time before...

     That's right, injury struck again. Guzman injured his thumb applying a tag at second, and was so distraught, anecdotal evidence has it that he tried to hide it from the Nationals staff. There was no hiding torn ligaments in the thumb though, as Washington Post writer Barry Svrluga quoted the Nationals Manager Manny Acta saying at the time, "...it (the thumb) didn't look right."

      Cristian Guzman surprised just about everyone by returning to the Nationals roster in the last week of the season, though his one at bat only served to lower his season average from .329 to .328, but if Guzman was healthy enough to play then, it stands to reason that he should surely be ready to start the final season of his contract with the Nationals in the starting lineup.

     There are no reasonable free agent infielders available for '08. The supply of Nationals GM Jim Bowden's former draft picks is thinning. Do the Nationals ship Felipe Lopez for pitching to make room for Guzman and Belliard, and then hope that Ian Desmond or another Minor League infielder suddenly matures? Bernie Castro? Stephen King anyone? And don't forget about now-18 year-old shortstop Esmailyn Gonzalez...Or do Guzman, Lopez and Belliard share the infield? Someone ask Mr. Acta for me...