Notes: Belliard headed back to bench
Infielder will give way to returning Guzman on Monday
SAN DIEGO -- Cristian Guzman, on the disabled list with a left hamstring strain, is scheduled to rejoin the Nationals in Milwaukee on Monday and start at shortstop that night.Guzman has been playing extended Spring Training games since last week and hasn't had any problems on the field. The move means that second baseman Ronnie Belliard will go back to the bench and Felipe Lopez will switch from shortstop to second base.
Belliard has done a very good job, leading the Nationals in hits with 31 and hitting .307 entering Tuesday's action. But manager Manny Acta pointed out that Guzman has two years left on his contract with the Nationals, and the skipper wants to see if Guzman can be the player that helped the Twins win three consecutive American League Central titles.Guzman has struggled since signing a four-year, $16.8 million contract with Washington. He hit .219 in 142 games in 2005 and missed all of last season because of a right shoulder injury. "Guzman is ours. We need to fix him," Acta said. "We need to see the player that was in Minnesota a couple of years ago, and I think he earned that right with the he kind of Spring Training that he had. We owe it to him to put him out there." Besides being a backup second baseman, third baseman and shortstop, Belliard is expected to take ground balls at first base and back up Dmitri Young and Robert Fick. Injury report: Center fielder Nook Logan, on the disabled list because of a left foot strain, will not rejoin the Nationals until they return to Washington next week. Logan did not start playing extended Spring Training games until Monday, and Acta said that Logan needs more at-bats. According to Acta, Logan has been running the bases very well. He hit a triple on Monday and scored all the way from first on Guzman single on Tuesday. Off the bench: Nationals pinch-hitters are not doing the job this season. Entering Tuesday's action, they were 3-for-44 (.068) with one RBI. Fick, the team's go-to guy off the bench, said the cold weather during the month of April was a major reason for the problems. "It's hard to pinch-hit in that cold weather," Fick said. "That's the only excuse. We have to go 20 for our next 44 to get that average up." Acta also said that players such as Josh Wilson are not used to coming off the bench. "We have gotten very little," Acta said. "We need to get Robert going. Up to now, he hasn't performed like he can, but it's a tough job." Acta believes the bench will get better once Belliard and Kory Casto are back on the bench. "There is no doubt in my mind that having Belliard come off the bench will be a good option," Acta said. "If we keep Casto sharp, he will fit some of those things that you need off the bench -- taking pitches, go deep in the count." A different view: Outfielder Ryan Church was surprised to hear that Padres right-hander Jake Peavy was rattled when Church slammed the bat into the ground after being it by an 0-2 pitch in the fourth inning on Monday. Peavy lost his concentration and went into the windup, allowing Church to steal second base easily. "[Slamming the bat] had nothing to do with him. My leg hurt," Church said. "Peavy is not that kind of guy. I saw the quotes and everything. He bailed me out -- hand wrapped it. Fine with me. I have nothing against him." Send in your question: The Nationals mailbag appears every other Monday. Send in your questions now, and make sure include "Mailbag" in the subject line. Stat of the day: Nationals starters had a National League-leading 2.68 ERA from April 23-30. Did you know? The Nationals/Expos have not won a series from the Padres since 2003, when the Expos swept a three-game set at Olympic Stadium from May 6-8, 2003. Coming up: The Nationals play the third game of a three-game series against the Padres on Wednesday night. Washington left-hander Matt Chico faces San Diego right-hander Clay Hensley.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.