- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 27, 2005

MIAMI — When you’ve endured the kind of season Cristian Guzman has had, you’ll hang your hat on anything positive.

So it’s perfectly understandable that the Washington Nationals shortstop is trying to focus his attention on his September surge at the plate rather than his miserable April, May, June, July and August.

“When you do something in the game, you have to be happy,” said Guzman, who is batting .333 (23-for-69) with 12 RBI this month. “I want the season to start right now, but it’s almost over. I’m going to keep going the last five games and improve the numbers.”

Guzman’s late-season upswing has been nothing short of remarkable given the depths to which he had fallen. As recently as Sept. 6, his batting average stood at .196. After a 2-for-5 showing last night, it was up to .217, its highest mark since mid-May.

So which is the real Guzman: the one that struggled to reach the Mendoza line for the bulk of the season, or the one that at the moment seems to be earning his $4.2 million salary?

“It’s nice to see, and I’m very happy for him finishing up on a very positive note,” manager Frank Robinson said. “But you have to say, ‘Is this real, or is this fool’s gold?’ You have a tendency to kind of lean toward the five months that you saw as opposed to, say, this month.”

Nevertheless, Guzman’s September performance could sway club officials to think differently about him this offseason. Some within the organization believe he should be dealt at all costs, even if the Nationals have to pick up most of the remaining $12.6 million on his contract. Others may be tempted to give him another shot, hoping he can at least bear some resemblance to the player who hit .266 over his first six major league seasons.

“What he’s shown us in the last month is, ‘Yes, I can still do what I did the last three or four years. Yes, I’m still in my mid-20s. And certainly I have the talent to do it,’ ” general manager Jim Bowden said. “Hopefully a year of adjusting will allow him to come back next year and play like he did in Minnesota.”

Surgery for Livan

Pitcher Livan Hernandez will undergo arthroscopic surgery next week to clean out the right knee that plagued him throughout the season.

Hernandez, who still will make his final start of the year Friday, will be operated on Oct. 5 in Miami by doctor John Uribe. He’ll need eight weeks of rehab, which should give him plenty of time to prepare for spring training.

It’s the first time Hernandez has needed surgery in his nine-year career, but this seemed inevitable. The right-hander began feeling pain in his knee in May, and though he pitched through it, he admitted it affected his performance at times.

Fan Appreciation Weekend

The Nationals have announced plans for this weekend’s season-ending homestand against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Upper deck tickets for all three games (Friday at 7:05 p.m., Saturday at 4:10 p.m. and Sunday at 1:05 p.m.) will be two-for-one. On Saturday, fans will receive a 2005 team photo and a 2006 early-bird schedule.

Sunday’s giveaways include two round-trip airline tickets, spring-training vacations, an automobile and various team apparel.

Guillen sits

One night after getting hit in the left hand by a pitch, right fielder Jose Guillen was out of the Nationals’ lineup.

Guillen suffered a deep bruise after getting plunked by Marlins left-hander Jason Vargas in the third inning and was immediately taken out of the game. The injury is not considered serious, but the club decided to hold him out for at least one more night.

It was the 19th time Guillen has been hit by pitch this season, tops in the National League. With Guillen struggling lately to catch up to inside fastballs, opposing pitchers have been making it a point to come in on him. Guillen also is slow to pull his hands back on tight pitches, which may contribute to his high total.

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