- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 2, 2005

Washington Nationals manager Frank Robinson doesn’t want to hear any more boos for slumping shortstop Cristian Guzman.

Robinson acknowledged the switch-hitting Guzman, who is 7-for-64 (.109) in his last 19 games, is not swinging the bat well. But the manager doesn’t think that gives the home fans the right to boo him every time he fails to get a hit or drive in a run.

?I think [the fans are] really off-base and totally unfair to boo Guzman,? Robinson said. ?It’s not like we’re playing bad baseball. He’s doing a good job for us defensively. He’s not doing the job offensively, and no one feels worse than he does.?

Guzman, who is hitting just .184 after going 1-for-4 against the Atlanta Braves last night, drew the ire of fans Tuesday night when he grounded into inning-ending double plays in the second and fourth innings, then popped up a bunt attempt to end the sixth inning.

?This is when you need the fan support, when you’re struggling and not doing well,? Robinson said. ?If they want to help this ballclub and they are true fans, and I think they are, they should get behind this kid and give him a pick-me-up or and cheer for him. We’re winning ball games. We’re not losing ballgames. Why pick out one individual because he’s struggling and get down on him??

At this point, the Nationals don’t have many other options beyond the 27-year-old Guzman, who was their most expensive offseason acquisition at $16.8million for four years. Jamey Carroll can play short, but he’s needed at second base until Jose Vidro returns from an ankle injury.

Nineteen-year-old Ian Desmond was impressive during spring training, particularly on defense, but he’s at Class A Savannah and is years away from playing every day at the major league level.

?Even if there was a guy in the minor leagues hitting .350, it doesn’t matter — [Guzman] is the future of our organization,? catcher Brian Schneider said. ?He signed a four-year deal. He’s going to play.?

Guzman, a career .266 hitter, is batting .241 from the left side but just .079 from the right.

Getting left behind?

Reliever C.J. Nitkowski, the Nationals’ only left-hander, has faced three left-handed batters and gotten none out.

Nitkowski knows if he doesn’t prove he can retire left-handed hitters soon, he may not be a National for long, but he said he doesn’t let the stress get to him. In four appearances, Nitkowski has pitched a total of two innings and allowed three runs on three hits. He worked one scoreless inning last night to drop his ERA to 13.50.

?I’ve been through it a couple times now,? Nitkowski said. ?I made the team in Texas in 2003. I pitched six games and was sent out, and that was it. That was probably the shortest one I’ve been on. I understand how it works.?

In desperate need of a left-handed arm, the Nationals signed Nitkowski, 32, last Thursday after he was released by Pittsburgh’s Class AAA Indianapolis affiliate. The Nationals are Nitkowski’s eighth team in his seven-year major league career.

Extra bases

When the Nationals arrived at RFK Stadium yesterday, the players were informed they had to undergo random drug tests. It was the fourth time this season the Nationals have been tested for steroids.

According to Schneider, the club’s‘ player representative, seven players are chosen indiscriminately.

?It was unscheduled, out of the blue, just like they do in every clubhouse,? Schneider said.

As part of the current agreement with the players association, Major League Baseball is allowed to test for steroids but not recreational drugs unless there is just cause. …

Despite hovering near the top of the National League East, the Nationals have no position player in the top five after first ballots were counted in fan voting for the All-Star Game.

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