- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 10, 2005

HOUSTON — One night after nearly costing the Washington Nationals a victory with a shaky performance in the field, shortstop Cristian Guzman was out of the starting lineup against the Houston Astros.

But not for performance reasons.

Guzman, who was originally penciled in to bat eighth, was a late scratch because of an abscess in one of his lower right molars. The ailment, which Nationals team doctor Bruce Thomas compared to “a cavity gone bad,” was bothering Guzman during Tuesday night’s 6-5 win at Minute Maid Park. The pain apparently became too much yesterday, so he gave way to backup Jamey Carroll.

Thomas said Guzman has been dealing with the problem since spring training, but the symptoms have progressively gotten worse. The much maligned shortstop was experiencing throbbing pain and had pus oozing from his tooth during Tuesday’s game, when his sixth-inning throwing error allowed two runs to score.

Doctors have put Guzman on antibiotics to relieve the pain, and though they believe he can make it through the remaining 11 days of the Nationals’ current road trip, they say he’ll likely need to undergo a root canal once the club returns home.

“If it doesn’t settle down in the next 24 hours, we’ll go to a local dentist,” Thomas said.

Whether or not Guzman’s toothache affected his performance Tuesday night, manager Frank Robinson’s patience with the .188-hitting shortstop may be starting to wear thin. Though he has stuck with Guzman throughout this trying season, Robinson would not go so far yesterday to declare him the regular shortstop for the rest of the year.

“No, you can’t assume that,” the manager said, adding that he’s still reluctant to make a switch without more depth at the position than Carroll.

Guillen pinch hits

Right fielder Jose Guillen, who had missed three games because of a partially torn rotator cuff, came in as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning last night. He struck out to end the game.

Guillen said his injured left shoulder felt well enough to start last night, but decided to take at least one more game off so rookie Brandon Watson could remain in the lineup.

Guillen said would have pushed for a return to the lineup last night if not for Watson’s sparkling debut (2-for-5, home run, double) Tuesday.

“I just thought because he played so well yesterday that there’s not any rush for me to play,” Guillen said. “I just told [bench coach] Eddie [Rodriguez] to tell Frank to let him play today. That’s the only way they’re going to know how good he is.”

Thomas said club doctors have determined Guillen’s strength is close to its original, pre-injury levels and that he could be cleared to start tonight’s finale against the Astros. Guillen has taken batting practice the last two days and on Tuesday hit a ball onto the train tracks way above the left-field fence at Minute Maid Park.

Extra bases

When Guillen does return, struggling outfielder Preston Wilson could find himself bumped to the bench. Wilson entered last night’s game with only three homers, nine RBI and a .231 average in 22 games since coming to Washington. He also struck out 29 times in 78 at-bats. “We need more,” Robinson said. …

Outfielder Matt Cepicky, who was designated for assignment Sunday, cleared waivers and accepted his reassignment to Class AAA New Orleans. Cepicky will report to the Zephyrs tomorrow.

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