When the Nationals named Ian Desmond their starting shortstop and announced their intentions to make Cristian Guzman a utility player, there were some concerns about how Guzman would handle the move, and with good reason. Guzman is an 11-year veteran who'd never played a position other than shortstop in the majors, and with the 32-year-old in the last year of a contract that would pay him $8 million this season, the Nationals made their choice and hoped Guzman would handle it well.
A week into the experiment, manager Jim Riggleman can happily say he has.
Guzman has two hits in his first four at-bats this season, and has appeared in games at shortstop and right field so far. He's starting at shortstop today, and could see some more time in the outfield this weekend.
"I've really been impressed with his work," Riggleman said. "He's taking ground balls at second, at short, he's taking fly balls in right field. During the game, he's very much in tune with (bench coach) John McLaren to stay ready and be up on situations that are coming up where he might hit. He's in the cage getting ready to hit. He's stretching. I couldn't ask for anything more as far as the way he's reacting to it."
Guzman has been getting early work in the outfield - a position he said he's never played - before most games. He's handled the position well so far, though he hasn't been asked to do anything out of the ordinary.
"They told me I have to be ready for different positions, to practice at different positions," he said. "I can't stay the whole day at shortstop, because I know I'm not going to play every day over there. So I have to play different positions."
For the Nationals, there's a little relief in his willingness to make the move.
"I'm sure he's still not pleased with it. But I think he is handling it well, and I think we felt he would," Riggleman said. "He is going to be a big contributor for us."