PHILADELPHIA | Shortstop Cristian Guzman returned to the Washington Nationals‘ lineup Thursday night, although his injured left thumb isn’t completely healed and probably won’t be for the rest of the season.
Guzman, who played for the first time since Aug. 13, likely will see limited action for the rest of the season so his thumb injury can heal and Washington can look at the glut of middle infielders populating its roster.
“We’re going to be kind of careful from now on,” manager Manny Acta said. “This doesn’t mean he’s going to be out there every single day. He’s wearing some thumb guards and stuff to try to help him out. He’s feeling a lot better, especially from the right side.”
Guzman hasn’t damaged any cartilage in his thumb and isn’t likely to sustain further damage, but he’s still playing through pain. He said the thumb has improved in the last week and took early batting practice to make sure he could swing effectively. The injury mostly has limited Guzman at the plate, especially if he gets jammed.
Anderson Hernandez started at second Thursday night after playing shortstop the night before, and Alberto Gonzalez could return before the end of the month. Washington also wants to keep giving at-bats to second baseman Emilio Bonifacio, so Guzman’s playing time won’t be as automatic as it has been most of the season.
“It mostly will be how he feels,” Acta said. “We’re not going to push him in the situation we’re in right now.”
Dukes, Gonzalez move up
Left fielder Elijah Dukes and Gonzalez, who were on rehab assignments with the Nationals’ Rookie-level Gulf Coast League affiliate in Viera, Fla., have moved to Class AAA Columbus. Dukes started his rehab assignment with the Clippers on Thursday night, while Gonzalez likely will work out with the team for the rest of the week and begin playing games next week.
The move was partially for convenience - heavy rains from Tropical Storm Fay have washed out most of the team’s activities in Viera - but Acta said both Dukes and Gonzalez have improved to the point where they’re ready to speed things up.
“I think they’re going to finish their rehab, physically, at the end of the week and probably end up playing games next week,” Acta said.
Dukes hasn’t played since Aug. 2 after straining his right calf while hitting himself in the leg on the follow-through of his swing. Gonzalez bruised one of his left gluteal muscles sliding into third base Aug. 4.
Acta didn’t give a timetable for when either might return to the Nationals.