Notes: Guzman, Lopez get early start

Notes: Guzman, Lopez ready to get in sync

VIERA, Fla. -- Shortstop Cristian Guzman and second baseman Felipe Lopez reported to Spring Training on Sunday, and they are ready to become the team's new double-play combination.

This offseason, Lopez agreed to make the switch from shortstop to second to make room for Guzman, who missed all of the 2006 season because of a torn right labrum. Manager Manny Acta believes it will not take long for the pair to get in sync.

"They are going to be in the same group," Acta said. "We are not going to separate them. We went over this with our coaching staff. We are going to take them out for extra work. Communication is going to be a big part. You guys know that they communicate in two languages, so communication will not be a factor."

The Nationals are hoping that Guzman can go back to being the productive player who helped the Twins win three consecutive division titles. Since signing a four-year, $16.8 million contract in 2004, Guzman has been a disappointment. He hit .219 with four home runs and 31 RBIs in 2005 and was shelved in '06. Guzman acknowledged the bad shoulder was the reason for his down season in '05.

Acta believes that Guzman will not repeat his performance of two years ago. The skipper has Guzman penciled in behind Lopez as the No. 2 hitter.

"We are going to give him the confidence that he needs to move forward," Acta said. "I don't think Guzie can be as bad as he was in 2005, not even if he tried to. I'm looking for him to be a big help to us, and we are going to need him -- big time."

Acta said that he worked out Guzman in the Dominican Republic on two consecutive days in January and the shortstop looked great, but Guzman said his shoulder still feels tired sometimes.

He took batting practice in the cage and took ground balls during the Sunday workout and didn't have any problems, despite the cold weather. Guzman will have an MRI exam on the shoulder at the request of the Nationals sometime this week.

"I can do everything, but it's a little sore because I workout a lot in the Dominican," Guzman said. "In two more weeks, I'll be ready."

As for Lopez, 26, the decision to switch to second base was made last December after discussions with general manager Jim Bowden and Acta. Bowden explained to Lopez that Guzman has no experience at second base and that Lopez was the logical choice to make a position switch.

Lopez has played 12 games at second base during his career, and there are people in the front office and scouts around the league who feel that he is a far superior second baseman and third baseman than he is a shortstop.

"I played before, so I'm comfortable there," Lopez said. "It's not like they are asking me to move to the outfield, which I have never played. Second base is a position I can adjust to quickly and work hard and do the best that I can do."

The last time Lopez played second base was in 2005 with the Reds. The plan is for Barry Larkin, Bowden's special advisor, to tutor Lopez at the position during Spring Training. Lopez received help at the position from his uncle, Roberto Lopez, as well as Cardinals shortstop David Eckstein and his brother, Rick, a former Minor League coach.

Injury report: Dr. Benjamin Shaffer, the team's physician and orthopedist, looked at Nick Johnson's X-rays on Sunday and said that Johnson's fractured right femur (upper leg bone) is healing, but Dr. Shaffer wouldn't put a timetable on Johnson's return to the diamond.

"The fracture is consolidating compared to what it looked like a month ago," Dr. Shaffer said. "We see progress. It's not completely healed."

Dr. Shaffer had originally hoped that Johnson would be ready for Spring Training. During the offseason, Johnson had two additional surgeries -- one to remove scar tissue and the other to remove a pair of screws -- in order to improve his range of motion. On Friday, Johnson said that he could play his first game of the season sometime in June.

"The timetable really depends on when the fracture is healed and when he is completely rehabilitated," Shaffer said. "So we are working aggressively on getting his strength, endurance and fitness back, in addition to letting the fracture to continue to heal."

Johnson is currently working on a stationary bicycle and relearning to walk faster. Johnson will be working on an elliptical trainer on Monday, and the Nationals hope that he will be doing some light jogging soon.

Going to Arizona? Closer Chad Cordero said he has a 3 p.m. ET flight to Phoenix on Monday in order to attend his arbitration hearing the next day. Cordero is looking for a $4.15 million payday, while Washington is offering him $3.65 million.

Cordero said that he will be able to work out on Monday before leaving for Phoenix.

Blowing in the wind: The temperature at the Carl Barger Complex was in the mid 50s, but it felt much colder because the wind was so strong. It forced Acta to cut short the workouts on the field. He postponed the baserunning and bunting drills for the pitchers, but they were able to exercise inside the batting cages.

"We didn't think we could get much out of the baserunning and bunting lecture today because of the weather," Acta said. "Guys are just standing there listening to a bunting lecture or a baserunning lecture. I don't think their minds would be into it. It was too rough of a day out."

The pitchers were able to throw their bullpen sessions without any problems. John Patterson, for example, said that his breaking ball was working much better on Sunday because of the strong wind.

Young prospect secures representation: Agent Stanley King announced on Sunday morning that he will represent shortstop Esmailyn Gonzalez in future contract negotiations. King already represents Guzman. Gonzalez is expected to arrive in Viera sometime on Sunday. The switch-hitting Gonzalez was signed by the Nats last July at age 16.

He's here: First baseman Dmitri Young reported to Spring Training on Sunday morning. He will start the exhibition season at the accelerated camp.

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