Shortstop wants to avoid shoulder surgery

VIERA, Fla. -- Washington Nationals shortstop Cristian Guzman will try to avoid surgery on his injured right shoulder, but if two weeks of rest and rehab do not work, he could miss much of the season.

What was clear Thursday after a trip to Cincinnati for an MRI exam and second opinion from Dr. Tim Kremchek was that Guzman has a tear in the shoulder and will miss Opening Day. That makes Royce Clayton the club's everyday shortstop.

"It's a pretty serious surgery that has to take place and Dr. Kremchek felt -- since he's not a pitcher, he's a shortstop -- it was worth at least trying to rehabilitate it," general manager Jim Bowden said. "If he doesn't get better over the next couple of weeks, we'll go ahead and operate."

Guzman will try to build up the muscle around the tear in his throwing shoulder for the next two weeks and then be re-evaluated.

If he needs surgery, "he will be out months, not weeks," Bowden said.

Because of that, manager Frank Robinson said waiting to see how Guzman responds is worth it.

"He may come back from this and be able to compete. But if they go in there and operate, he's done for the season," Robinson said. "If it does work, we'll lose him for a month or so, and that's about it. Maybe two months at the most, but you would have him for the rest of the season if he holds up, which is another gamble. It's worth the gamble to try this first."

Guzman will be shut down for the next week and then go on a program to see how the shoulder responds.

"If he can't go in the hole and throw, then he'll know [surgery is] the only alternative," Bowden said.

Guzman had received two cortisone injections since last Friday, when bursitis and swelling in the shoulder were diagnosed and the expectation was he might miss up to a week.

"We certainly know we're going to lose him for the next two to three weeks, that's for sure," Robinson said. "And with that type of absence from spring training, there's no way he can open the season."

So Guzman, whose batting average was under .200 for most of last summer before he finished at .219, will be replaced in the starting lineup by Clayton, entering his 16th major-league season with his eighth club.

The 36-year-old Clayton hit .270 and made only 11 errors in 141 games at shortstop for Arizona.