All-Star Guzman bound for Bronx
Shortstop earns sub spot in the 2008 Midsummer Classic
CINCINNATI -- Shortstop Cristian Guzman, who has been the Nationals' most consistent position player this season, was rewarded for his efforts by being named to the National League All-Star team on Sunday afternoon.
The news was announced on the MLB All-Star Selection Show presented by Chevy.
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 All-Star team. Wil Cordero was a member of the NL All-Star team in 1994. The last Washington-based shortstop to make the Midsummer Classic was Rocky Bridges in 1958.
Despite the Nationals losing to the Reds, 6-5, on Sunday afternoon, Guzman's face was beaming when he spoke about playing in Yankee Stadium for the last time.
"I feel happy like everybody," Guzman said. "Ah, I feel great. This is my second All-Star Game. It's in New York. This is the last year at Yankee Stadium. So I'm going to go over there and have some fun. It's the only game they have [that day]. Everybody else has to watch."
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, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage. XM will provide satellite radio play-by-play coverage of the XM All-Star Futures Game.
No matter where Nationals manager Manny Acta has put him in the lineup, Guzman has produced this season. He is leading the NL in hits with 119 and is on pace to collect 200 hits and score 90 runs. Both would be career highs. Guzman also is on a 14-game hitting streak. Guzman has called the 2008 season the best of his career.
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.
"It's nice for him [to have a great season], because he is a good guy and he enjoys playing baseball," said third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. "He plays the game the right way. When he was hurt, I don't think he could really do that. He never really complains about anything.
"For him to finally be healthy and having fun, I think it's nice to see him goof around and smile -- actually have fun on the field."
This year has been a different story with the bat for Guzman, who underwent Lasik surgery in the offseason and has been healthy for the first time since joining the Nationals.
"It's well deserved," Acta said. "The guy is leading the leagues in hits and has played pretty much every day for us. He has been a pro for us on an everyday basis. It will be very satisfying for him after those three tough years he had here."
Guzman said he credits the Lasik surgery for making him see the ball much better, but general manager Jim Bowden said the surgery doesn't tell the whole story. The GM attribited Guzman's improvement to the shortstop's maturity, the fact that his shoulder is 100 percent and that he drives the ball to the gaps. Guzman no longer relies on being a slap hitter on artificial turf like he did with the Twins.
"The Lasik surgery helped him see the ball better," Bowden said. "But what I think is being missed here is his maturity as a baseball player, his swing and approach. ... More importantly, his swing is completely different from when we acquired the player. He has adjusted to grass, and he doesn't slap and run. He swings the bat with a level swing and squares the ball more than anybody on our team. His hits are line drives. That's the story about Cristian Guzman."
Guzman is a free agent after this season, and Washington is hoping to sign him to an extension. Through his agent, Stanley King, Guzman has told the Nationals he would take a two-year deal because of the tremendous hit the team took for signing him to the previous four-year contract.
"I want to stay," Guzman said. "I have my own house [in Washington]. My family lives there. I can stay close with my family."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.