- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 6, 2006

Washington Nationals shortstop Cristian Guzman will have surgery Monday in Cincinnati to repair a SLAP tear in his right shoulder that will put him out for the season.

Dr. Tim Kremchek, the Nationals’ senior medical consultant, will perform the procedure and be assisted by team orthopedist Ben Shaffer.

“He’s been trying to get through it, he kept trying to strengthen it, and at times it felt OK, but [the shoulder is] just not there — he just can’t do it,” general manager Jim Bowden said. “He might make a few good throws and all of a sudden his hand will drop and he’ll be in such pain that he can’t even lift it. We just couldn’t fix it that way. We tried.”

Guzman, who has three years left on a $16.8 million contract, injured himself throwing early in spring training and opened the season on the 15-day disabled list. The Nationals had hoped Guzman could avoid surgery with a strong rehab program and then have surgery in the offseason. For the past week, Guzman had been rehabbing at the team’s extended spring training camp in Viera, Fla., where he received some favorable reports.

The team brought Guzman in yesterday to throw for Bowden and manager Frank Robinson, who wanted to see if Guzman was sound enough to start a rehab assignment at Class AAA New Orleans. It never got that far. Once he arrived, Guzman told Bowden and Robinson that his shoulder hurt, and they didn’t even bother working Guzman out.

“He showed up and told us how his arm feels and said there’s pain in the front and he has some in the back, so there was no sense in [his] going out there,” Robinson said.

Guzman, 28, was coming off his worst major league season, when he batted .219 — lowest among all regular major league shortstops. During the offseason, the Nationals signed veteran Royce Clayton as insurance at the position.

The Nationals expect Guzman to be fully recovered in time for spring training. They are expected to transfer him to the 60-day disabled list, which will open a spot on the club’s 40-man roster.

“What we did not want to do is wait until June or July and make this decision and then affect next year,” Bowden said. “We watched the time; it was extremely important. We were going to make a decision today one way or the other.”

Focusing on the draft

The long-term goal of the Lerner family ownership group is to develop the Nationals system, stock it with young talent and avoid signing high-priced free agents.

The Lerners won’t have to wait long to enact their philosophy with next month’s first-year player draft looming. The Nationals hold two first-round picks — the 15th and 22nd overall — in the June 6-7 draft.

Scouting director Dana Brown said the club will select the best players available and not draft for need, even though the farm system lacks quality catchers and shortstops.

One problem Brown faces is that this upcoming draft is considered weak at the top.

“When it’s our pick, if the best player is a pitcher, we’re going to take a pitcher,” Brown said. “If the best player is a position player, we’ll take the position player. We’ll draft the player who we think has the best chance at making an impact at the big league level.”

One player who might be around at when the Nationals pick at No. 15 is Kent State shortstop Emmanuel Burriss. Burriss, who is from the District and attended Wilson High School, is a junior and leads the 30-15 Golden Flashes with a .380 batting average.

Burriss also had four home runs, three triples, eight doubles and 27 RBI before last night. The 6-footer has a .522 slugging percentage and a .472 on-base percentage. He also has 32 stolen bases in 34 attempts and a .933 fielding percentage.

Brown, who is credited with drafting Nationals closer Chad Cordero and rookie third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, has been given approval by the Lerners to handle this year’s draft.

“We’ll get a good, quality, big-league player that can contribute to a championship club, but there are no Ryan Zimmermans out there right now that you’re going to get,” Brown said.

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