- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 5, 2006

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — On second thought, maybe Jose Guillen is going to be just fine.

One day after being told his injured left wrist would require surgery and a three-month stint on the disabled list, the Washington Nationals’ right fielder received far more positive news from two other doctors. Instead of surgery, Guillen will need only to rest for seven to 10 days and should be fine by Opening Day.

Talk about a reversal of fortune.

On Friday, Guillen was told by Melbourne, Fla., hand specialist Edward St. Mary that he had tenosynovitis of the extensor tendon in his left wrist and that he likely would be out three months after undergoing surgery.

St. Mary, though, does not regularly treat professional athletes, so Guillen and the Nationals sought a second opinion from Baltimore hand specialist Tom Graham. Graham yesterday diagnosed the same tendon damage, but insisted it could be treated with a cortisone shot, a splint and rest — not surgery.

Tim Kremchek, one of the Nationals’ primary medical consultants, concurred with Graham.

“When I got the description of exactly what was going on with him, it just didn’t add up. It didn’t seem right,” Kremchek said in a conference call from Cincinnati. “If you know the baseball player, his lead arm, the way he grips a bat coming off shoulder surgery, it made more sense that this was an overuse injury and this was not a surgical problem. So I got the MRI, we looked at the MRI, and that was indeed the case. There was no structural damage. All his tendons and ligaments were normal.”

Kremchek also said he doesn’t see why Guillen — coming back from offseason left shoulder surgery — won’t be ready for Opening Day.

“It’s very good news,” manager Frank Robinson said before the Nationals’ exhibition game against the New York Mets.

Guillen said he first began noticing pain in his wrist a couple of weeks ago during weight training. He’s been held out of most full-squad workouts this spring but took live batting practice for the first time Wednesday.

That’s when the pain became more severe, so Guillen was examined by St. Mary on Thursday, receiving X-rays and an MRI. He might normally have been looked at by Bruce Thomas, Washington’s primary team physician, but Thomas is in Japan with the World Baseball Classic.

General manager Jim Bowden, somber the day before when he learned of Guillen’s initial diagnosis, was all smiles yesterday after hearing his right fielder’s injury wasn’t as serious as originally thought.

“We like the opinion we got today from both doctors. We’re going to stick with that one,” Bowden said. “Dr. Kremchek and Dr. Graham have a lot of history with athletes and sports teams and these type of injuries. Certainly, a lot of times how you treat an injury to a professional athlete compared to how you treat it with someone else is completely different.”

Bowden said the club’s medical staff would not recommend Guillen’s treatment if there was any thought the wrist injury could be career-threatening.

“If there was risk involved, we would not go this route,” Bowden said. “Dr. Kremchek and Dr. Graham have been very clear on their opinion on the wrist. We care about Jose Guillen long-term, not just short-term. Our plan is for Jose Guillen to be with the Nationals beyond this year and be here long-term. We would not make a decision that went against his long-range interests because we think that affects our team long-range as well.”

Guillen, 29, is in the final year of his contract with the Nationals and has said he’d like to discuss an extension before Opening Day. He led the club in most offensive categories a year ago, including home runs (24), RBI (76), runs (81) and hits (156).

His loss for a prolonged period would have been a devastating blow to a Washington club already reeling from injuries in this early stage of the season.

Right-hander Brian Lawrence, originally projected as the Nationals’ No.3 starter, underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum and rotator cuff in his left shoulder last week and is likely out for the season. Utilityman Robert Fick, meanwhile, will undergo surgery tomorrow to remove bone chips from his right elbow, though he may be back by Opening Day.

Got a question about the Nats? Mark Zuckerman has the answers. To

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