Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Cristian Guzman could get playing time at any of perhaps five positions.
Good thing I was stuck in traffic at that moment or else I might have driven my car straight into a Jersey wall.
Shocking as it sounded at the time, it really isn't all that surprising when you think about it. If we've learned anything about Jim Riggleman during his eight months as interim/permanent manager, it's that the guy values versatility. There's hardly a player on the Nationals' roster that Riggleman hasn't mentioned moving around to multiple positions this spring, aside from perhaps Ryan Zimmerman and Ivan Rodriguez.
Let's see ...
-- Willie Harris will be the starting right fielder. Unless he plays center field or left field on a given day. Or second base. Or third base.
-- Mike Morse will get time in right field. And first base. And third base.
-- Eric Bruntlett, if he makes the club, will play second base, shortstop, third base, first base and perhaps the outfield.
-- Adam Kennedy is the starting second baseman. But he could become the late-inning replacement for Adam Dunn at first base.
-- Alberto Gonzalez will play shortstop, second base, third base and perhaps even first base.
-- Josh Willingham can be the emergency catcher if needed.
-- And Guzman may just wind up playing five different positions when it's all said and done: shortstop, second base, third base, first base and right field.
Riggleman says it's all about trying to get Guzman into the lineup as much as possible, a task made all the more difficult when Ian Desmond beat him out for the starting shortstop job. The two-time All-Star shortstop, who had never played any other position in a regular-season, big-league game, made his debut at second base on Wednesday, worked out at first base during pregame drills and yesterday found himself in the outfield for the first time in his life.
This is the way Riggleman operates, though. He's an old-school manager who learned his craft from the likes of George Kissell, Whitey Herzog and Tony La Russa. To Riggleman, a baseball player is a baseball player is a baseball player. And a good ballplayer should be able to hold his own just about anywhere on the field.
There is some value in this, especially in the National League. Riggleman loves to pull double-switches, so he likes to have multiple options at his disposal.
He certainly figures to have them once the season begins Monday. Imagine what might happen if the Nats hold a slim lead over the Phillies entering the eighth inning...
"Ladies and gentlemen, your attention please. These defensive changes for the Nationals. Moving from second base to first base: Adam Kennedy. Entering the game at second base and batting ninth: Cristian Guzman. Entering the game in right field and batting seventh: Willy Taveras. And now pitching and batting fourth: Brian Bruney."
A word of advice for those of you who plan to keep score during games this season: Use a pencil, not a pen.