- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Washington shortstop Cristian Guzman produced his first multi-hit game of the season last night, getting a double and two singles in his first three at-bats.

He still has work to do to get to a .200 batting average, but his performance last night offered a glimmer of hope and addressed the concerns of manager Frank Robinson.

“If you notice, he’s hitting ground balls. He’s not hitting fly balls. He’s not hitting line drives to the outfield. He’s hitting ground balls so that means he’s hitting the top of the ball,” Robinson said. “I would like to see him lower his sights a little bit, and hit just off-center on the lower part of the ball. Get it in the air a little and get it away from those infielders and get it out there in the outfield and maybe he’ll get something.”

Guzman (.157), who also stole his first base of the season last night, is playing his home games on natural grass for the first time in his career. He spent his first six years with the Minnesota Twins.

Robinson batted Guzman second in the Nationals order for two straight games, hoping to boost his shortstop’s confidence. In those games, the switch-hitting Guzman went 0-for-6 with a bases-loaded walk and a sacrifice bunt. He grounded out five times — three to second base and two to shortstop.

Before last night’s game, Robinson dropped Guzman to the No. 8 spot in the order and moved first baseman Nick Johnson up to second from sixth.

Guzman, 27, has declined to speak to reporters about his season-opening hitting woes. Over the Nationals’ past 11 games, Guzman was 3-for-37.

In an attempt to get Guzman going, the Nationals asked Barry Larkin, a special assistant to interim general manager Jim Bowden, to come to the District. Larkin, a 12-time National League All-Star shortstop with the Cincinnati Reds, is in town for three days to primarily work with Guzman.

Tucker out

Reliever T.J. Tucker strained his right groin in the sixth inning last night and is expected to be out two to four weeks.

The Nationals will place Tucker on the 15-day disabled list today and will purchase the contract of right-handed reliever Hector Carrasco from Class AAA New Orleans. Outfielder Alex Escobar will be transferred from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL.

With a 2-2 count to Juan Pierre and two outs, Tucker buckled over in obvious pain.

“The last thing I remember is that my foot got stuck in the mud and it happened after I let go of the pitch and heard a big old gun went off and then snap,” Tucker said. “I thought it was a cramp and I tried to do a little groin stretching and I said, ‘There’s no way.’ There’s a lot of pain. Probably the worst pain I’ve ever felt.”

In six appearances this season, Tucker (1-0), who will have an MRI today, has not allowed a run in 51/3 innings.

After many complaints about RFK’s mound, the Nationals brought in a grounds crew member from the club’s spring training complex in Viera, Fla., on Monday to work on it.

“I just remember that my foot was still in the ground,” Tucker said.

Cordero on schedule

Backup first baseman Wil Cordero could be ready to return to the lineup in two to three weeks.

Cordero underwent arthroscopic surgery to his right knee April 11 in Cincinnati to repair torn cartilage.

Cordero joined his team yesterday for the first time since undergoing surgery. It was originally believed Cordero would be out six to eight weeks.

Extra bases

Coming into last night’s game, the Nationals ranked second in the National League in total bases (207) and slugging percentage (.470). However, with runners in scoring position, the Nationals were just 23-for-101 (.228).

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