Guzman has tear in right shoulder

Guzman diagnosed with tear in right shoulder

VIERA, Fla. -- Cristian Guzman now knows why he has had a tough time throwing a baseball and hitting right-handed. The Nationals shortstop was given a saline-enhanced MRI on Wednesday evening and Thursday morning by Dr. Tim Kremchek in Cincinnati, and it revealed a SLAP tear in the right shoulder, an injury that caused right-hander Ryan Drese to miss most of September last season.

For now, Guzman will be treated non-surgically with rest for one week and then rehabilitation for an additional week. After that, Guzman will be reevaluated by the Nationals' medical staff.

"Since he is not a pitcher and he's a shortstop, it was worth at least trying to rehabilitate the shoulder," general manager Jim Bowden said. "If he doesn't get any better in the next couple of weeks, we will go ahead and operate."

If Guzman has the surgery, he would be out for several months. The team will know if Guzman needs surgery after the two weeks are up. If he can't throw from deep in the hole at short, it will be time to go under the knife.

"If he can't go to the hole and throw, then he'll know that surgery is the only alternative," Bowden said.

Guzman was originally diagnosed with inflammation and bursitis in the shoulder. He was given two cortisone shots, but neither cured the problem.

The shoulder started to give Guzman serious problems in the bottom of the second inning of last Thursday's game against the Marlins.

In the top of that inning, with two outs, Marlins right fielder Mark Little hit a sharp grounder to Guzman, who backhanded the ball. He had plenty of time to get Little, but there wasn't any zip on his throw. The ball hit the ground and skipped past first baseman Nick Johnson for an error.

Guzman's agent, Stanley King, is not surprised about Guzman's shoulder problems. King thought something was wrong with the shoulder toward the end of last season.

"I saw him make throws and they didn't have any zip to them," King said. "He would throw from 20 feet and the ball would just die. Cristian is a guy that is not going to put himself on the trainer's table. He wants to play. But when I saw Cristian before Spring Training, he looked fine."

Guzman is 2-for-9 in five games this spring.

If Guzman is out for a long time, Royce Clayton will be the starting shortstop. Clayton signed a Minor League contract last February with a promise that he would compete against Guzman for the starting shortstop job.

Bowden said signing Clayton and trading Jamey Carroll to the Rockies turned out to be a wise decision. Both Bowden and manager Frank Robinson wanted Clayton on the team, but Robinson didn't want to sign Clayton at the expense of losing Carroll. Bowden ended up selling Carroll to the Rockies last month.

"We wanted to protect the position. That's why we signed Royce," Bowden said. "We made a million-dollar choice: It was either Clayton or Carroll. And Jamey was one of the most popular players in our clubhouse and one of the best extra players in the league. But we decided that we wanted an everyday shortstop and I think it has paid off. That's what Royce is here for."

The Nationals also need to find a backup shortstop, and Damian Jackson is the leading candidate if Clayton becomes the starter. Jackson was one of the first free agents Bowden signed this offseason. He is having a good spring, hitting .292 with five RBIs.

"We have some people that might be a backup to Clayton," Robinson said. "Damian has gotten innings [at shortstop this spring]. We still have plenty of time. I've been assured that Damian can [be a backup] at shortstop. We have to wait and see."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.