- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 15, 2006

VIERA, Fla. — While Cristian Guzman was in Cincinnati yesterday having his injured right shoulder examined by orthopedic specialist Tim Kremchek, the Washington Nationals were preparing for the possibility of veteran Royce Clayton opening the season at shortstop.

The Nationals did not expect to get the final word on Guzman until late last night or this morning, but club officials were bracing for bad news, and manager Frank Robinson acknowledged Guzman’s availability for Opening Day is no longer certain.

“Each day you miss, it comes into question,” Robinson said. “He still has time, but it will be close. It’s questionable.”

Guzman has missed Washington’s last six games with what has been diagnosed as bursitis in his throwing shoulder. He received a second cortisone injection Tuesday and yesterday morning flew to Cincinnati to be examined by Kremchek.

With Guzman out for the last week and perhaps longer, Clayton has begun to stake his claim for the starting shortstop job. The 36-year-old, who signed a nonguaranteed, minor league deal with the Nationals this winter, has made some standout plays in the field but is hitting just .206 in 12 games.

“I’m mentally preparing myself to come in and play every day,” Clayton said. “And if my name’s not in the lineup, I’ll break it down and say ‘OK,’ take a deep breath and get ready for tomorrow or later on in the game.”

Kasten in town

Former Atlanta Braves president Stan Kasten was in Viera yesterday, adding to speculation that he’s on the verge of joining forces with the Lerner family to make a successful bid to buy the Nationals.

Kasten, one of the original nine bidders for the club, was ushered around Space Coast Stadium by general manager Jim Bowden, one week after Bowden did the same with Mark Lerner.

Kasten said he couldn’t comment on anything regarding the Nationals or himself, but it has been widely speculated that Major League Baseball would like him to merge with the Lerner bid and ultimately run the organization’s day-to-day operations.

MLB could name Washington’s new owner by Opening Day, though the group likely wouldn’t take over full control until midseason.

Guillen to play Monday

Right fielder Jose Guillen took live batting practice yesterday for the first time in two weeks and said he will be ready to make his spring-training game debut Monday.

Guillen, who had been sidelined the last two weeks with inflammation in his left wrist, took 40 swings before yesterday’s game and reported no pain in either his wrist or his surgically repaired left shoulder.

“I’m telling you, if there was any pain there, I was going to stop because I’ve got to be smarter,” he said. “Everything went great, and hopefully we have a plan to play Monday.”

Extra bases

Joey Eischen made his spring-training debut yesterday, tossing one scoreless inning of relief against the New York Mets. Eischen, who is battling tendinitis in his left shoulder, walked one but did not allow a hit. …

Right-hander Tony Armas Jr. arrived back in Viera yesterday after spending nearly two weeks pitching in the World Baseball Classic for his native Venezuela. Armas appeared in just one game, though, so he will have to catch up to the rest of his Nationals rotation mates.

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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