- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 11, 2006

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — An injury is the last thing Washington Nationals shortstop Cristian Guzman needed, especially coming off a dreadful season.

Guzman underwent an MRI on his right shoulder and will be shut down for five to seven days before he can resume baseball activities.

The MRI revealed inflammation and bursitis in Guzman’s throwing shoulder. Team physicians Bruce Thomas and Wiemi Douoguih gave Guzman a cortisone injection and told him to rest.

With Guzman unable to play, veteran Royce Clayton, utility infielder Damian Jackson, and prospect Ian Desmond most likely will play shortstop for the week ahead. Guzman is coming off a season in which he hit .219 — the lowest batting average of any regular shortstop in the majors.

The injury interrupts Guzman’s spring training camp, but the Nationals feel he has plenty of time before Opening Day to get back on course.

“Unless he takes longer than five to seven days, or is still there, then that’s when there’s some concern and will have some type of effect on the team,” Nationals manager Frank Robinson said. “Other than that, he’s got plenty of time to get ready for the season.”

Guzman, who underwent laser eye surgery in the offseason, vowed on the first day of camp that Nationals fans will see the new “Guzie” this season. However, after five spring games, Guzman is hitting just .222 in nine at-bats with one RBI and no extra-base hits.

Fatigue sets in for Rauch

Nationals starter Jon Rauch looked good until the fourth inning of yesterday’s start against the Houston Astros.

Rauch, who is one of five pitchers vying for three spots in the Nationals rotation, took the loss in the 8-6 game. In the inning, Rauch loaded the bases with two walks and a single by Astros shortstop Chris Burke. Then outfielder Charlton Jimerson, who made his major league debut last season with one game as a defensive substitute but no at-bats, sent a Rauch fastball over the right-center field fence — well more than 400 feet away — for a grand slam.

“I got tired, it’s been months since I’ve gone more than three innings,” Rauch said of his 62-pitch performance. “I feel like I got tired and it showed with my pitching. The ball stayed up in the zone and a lot more stuff got hit and I couldn’t locate anymore.”

The 6-foot-11 Rauch has allowed four home runs in 61/3 innings this spring. Yesterday, he gave up five runs on five hits in 31/3 innings. He struck out three and walked three.

“Right now, I would like to think of myself as a reliever and think I’m in that long spot, but if I keep pitching like this, who knows what’s going to happen,” Rauch said.

Watson performs well

Center fielder Brandon Watson went 3-for-5 with a run scored and also shined defensively. He led off the game with a successful drag bunt down the first-base line and later scored.

Watson made a running catch in the left-center field gap to rob Morgan Ensberg of extra bases. Watson is 9-for-24 this spring (.375). The only part of his game that irritated Robinson yesterday was his swinging at the first pitch of the fifth inning. In that at-bat, he flied out to left field.

“I know I should have been a little more patient as far as taking a pitch to make them work a little bit and I kinda saw it as my good pitch and I just swung,” Watson said. “It doesn’t matter what you do with that pitch, it’s about doing what you’re supposed to do. I should have taken that pitch for the team.”

Got a question about the Nats? Mark Zuckerman has the answers. To submit a question, go to the https://www.washingtontimes.com/sports>Sports Page

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