- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 14, 2006

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — The Washington Nationals don’t want to rush outfielder Jose Guillen’s rehabilitation from his left wrist injury.

More to the point, the Nationals don’t want Jose Guillen to rush Jose Guillen. As a result, the Nationals might try to hold in check his vigorous rehab regimen on the injury, which he suffered while rehabbing his left shoulder in spring training after offseason surgery.

Guillen resumed some baseball-related activities — he hit off a tee — in the past two days. That has Guillen talking about perhaps playing in a spring training game as early as next week, even though it was just 10 days ago that a second medical opinion revealed surgery was not needed to fix tendon damage in his left wrist.

“He’s not rushing anything with the medical people that said what he’s allowed to do,” Nationals manager Frank Robinson said. “It’s just that sometimes he overdoes it and doesn’t stick to the program. I think they have him on a strict program this time around, and he’s doing that. If he’s able or capable of getting in a ballgame next week, I’m sure it’s with the medical people’s blessings.”

Guillen, 29, led Washington in runs (81), hits (156), total bases (264), home runs (24) and RBI (76) last season despite a myriad of injuries.

“He’s a lot like Joey Eischen; you can’t hold those guys back,” Robinson said. “They’re going to do what they have to do or want to do in the first place. They know one gear, and that’s all out. Jose has a mind-set of his own and feels like he wants to be on the field and wants to be out there and help his teammates. I’d rather have somebody to have to try and hold back or be cautious with than to push them out there on the field. We’ll watch him very closely, and he won’t over do it.”

Rough outing

Right-hander Pedro Astacio endured his second consecutive shaky spring training performance last night, allowing three runs on four hits.

Astacio, one of five starting pitchers battling for three spots in the rotation, said he threw somewhere between 50 and 55 pitches in two inning against the New York Mets. He would have liked another inning, but his pitch count was too high.

In his spring debut Thursday against the Florida Marlins, Astacio escaped a bases-loaded jam after he walked two batters in one inning.

“You have to worry about it because it’s your job,” Astacio said. “Even if it’s spring training, you have to go there and pitch. You have big league hitters you have to get out.”

A wealth of arms

Pitching was the least of the Nationals’ problems last season. With an outstanding bullpen that remains mostly intact, there are few available pitching jobs. But that doesn’t mean some pitchers haven’t impressed this spring.

Non-roster invitees Kyle Denney and Steve Watkins are two. Coming into last night’s game against the New York Mets, Denney had allowed just three runs in seven innings. Right-hander Watkins has given up just two runs in nine innings on just seven hits.

“We’ve had four pitchers that have impressed us, and I think one of the things we have more of this year than we had last year is depth if we have injuries early on,” Nationals general manager Jim Bowden said. “Beyond [Jason] Bergmann and [Bill] Bray, whom we knew coming in, I think Kyle Denney and Watkins and Saul Rivera and [Kevin] Gryboski are four pitchers that have done extremely well and opened our eyes. It’s certainly nice to know we have depth there.

Dreams of a defector

Bowden has seen some talented players in the World Baseball Classic, especially Cuban second baseman Yulieski Gourriel.

Bowden said if Gourriel defected, he would sign him in a nano-second. In five WBC games, Gourriel is hitting .316 with two home runs in 19 at-bats. His slugging percentage in the tournament is .737.

“The second baseman of Cuba, if he wants to defect, we’ll sign him,” Bowden said. “I love him. Tremendous bat speed, great power, good fielder, can run. He really opened my eyes. I can’t pronounce his name. He’s a serious player, but obviously we can’t sign him.”

Got a question about the Nats? Mark Zuckerman has the answers. To submit a question, go to the Sports Page

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