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Guzman's mentality: Play every day

Guzman's mentality: Play every day

NEW YORK -- When Cristian Guzman was a kid, he watched his father, Tirson, work on his farm in the Dominican Republic without taking a day off. That hard-working approach rubbed off on Cristian.

Now a shortstop for the Nationals, Guzman gives manager Manny Acta a hard time when it comes to taking a day off. Even when the game is out of reach and Acta wants to give him a breather, Guzman remains in the game.

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The best example of Guzman's iron-man approach came on June 24, 2007, against the Indians. Guzman tore ligaments in his left thumb after tagging out Josh Barfield at second base. Guzman refused to leave the game and was able to get one more at-bat before Acta finally took him out of the game.

"He gave me everything when I was little," Guzman said of his father. "He wanted to work every day. That's why I refuse to get out of games. I try to be like him -- like working every day. That's my job. I don't need a day off. I'm not tired and I'm not hurt. I have to play."

Guzman has played all but two games for the Nationals this year. He has been the only position player on the team to be consistent with the bat. Entering the All-Star break, Guzman is having the best year of his career, hitting .313 with five home runs and 30 RBIs. He is leading the National League in hits with 126 and is on pace to get 200 hits for the first time in his career.

"Everybody wants to get 200 hits," Guzman said. "Not everybody can do that. Will I do it? It will be good for me."

The hard work paid off for Guzman as Rockies manager Clint Hurdle named him to the National League All-Star team. Guzman will be making his second All-Star appearance. In his first, in 2001 as a member of the Twins, he went 0-for-1 with a strikeout. Guzman becomes the second Nationals/Expos shortstop in the past 14 years to make the NL All-Star team, joining Wil Cordero (1994). The last Washington-based shortstop to make the Midsummer Classic was the Senators' Rocky Bridges in 1958.

The 79th Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage that will also be available on XM Satellite Radio, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage.

Guzman has come a long way since signing a four-year, $16.8 million contract with Washington after the 2004 season. In '05, he hit .219 in 142 games. In retrospect, many believe a right shoulder injury was the reason. It would get worse for Guzman. In the next two seasons, Guzman played in a combined 46 games because of right shoulder and left thumb injuries.

Now healthy, Guzman is happy that the Washington fans can see the player who helped the Twins win three consecutive American League Central titles.

"I'm happy for them, too," Guzman said of the Washington fans. "They know the deal. They have started to love me. That's all a player needs."

Guzman picked a good time to have his best season. He is a free agent after the season and the Nationals are trying to sign him to an extension. It's not known the dollar amount they are offering, but, with the Dodgers' Rafael Furcal out indefinitely with a back injury, Guzman will be among the top free-agent shortstops entering the offseason.

General manager Jim Bowden declined MLB.com's request for an interview about Guzman, and Guzman's agent, Stanley King, did not return several phone messages.

However, two sources said that the Nationals and the Guzman camp talked late last week at Nationals Park without coming up with a deal.

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

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