ATLANTA — Just when it looked like Cristian Guzman was going to resurrect his career after two wretched seasons, the Washington Nationals shortstop suffered another devastating setback.
Guzman had surgery yesterday at Sibley Memorial Hospital in the District to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb, a procedure that will prevent him from playing again until 2008 and will cut short a standout season.
The manner in which the 29-year-old shortstop hurt himself Sunday — tagging Cleveland Indians second baseman Josh Barfield on the helmet — and then insisted on finishing the game at RFK Stadium underscored just how desperately he wanted to continue what was shaping up to be a career year.
Despite missing more than a month with a strained hamstring, Guzman was producing career numbers. His .329 batting average and .382 on-base percentage were both career highs, and there was talk of him deserving consideration for next month’s All-Star Game.
“I feel bad because he’s having an All-Star season,” manager Manny Acta said. “Whether he was going to maintain this, who knows? But he was playing great. He was happy. He was a big part of the club.”
Doctors presented Guzman with the option of wearing a cast on his thumb for now, though he likely would have required major surgery this winter and wouldn’t have been ready for spring training.
Instead, he should be fine next season and poised again to overcome all that has befallen him since signing a four-year, $16.8 million contract before 2005.
“If he’s going to miss time, at least he’ll miss time after a very positive kind of half-season note,” Acta said. “Because he had such a tough time the last two years here.”
Felipe Lopez, who was starting to settle in as a second baseman, will replace Guzman at shortstop. Ronnie Belliard will take over at second base. D’Angelo Jimenez (purchased yesterday from Class AAA Columbus) will assume the utility infielder’s spot.
Hill’s elbow OK
There is no structural damage to Shawn Hill’s elbow, and the right-hander said he could resume throwing this weekend.
Hill, on the disabled list since May 12 with injuries to his right elbow and left shoulder, was examined yesterday in Birmingham, Ala., by orthopedist James Andrews, who performed Hill’s ligament replacement surgery in September 2004. Andrews diagnosed tendinitis, gave Hill a cortisone shot and sent him home relieved.
“To be perfectly honest, I was expecting to be told I was going to need some type of surgery,” Hill said by phone. “But he was convinced there’s nothing going on, just tendinitis. … Hopefully, these medicines will completely knock it out.”
Utilityman Robert Fick, on bereavement leave since the death of his mother Wednesday, is expected to rejoin the Nationals today. The club was making plans to remove another player from the roster to clear space for Fick. …