Cristian Guzman, one of the Washington Nationals’ first free agent signings after the move from Montreal, has a new home. The former Nats shortstop has signed a minor-league deal with the Cleveland Indians with an invitation to spring training. The contract of course, is pending a physical. Guzman, 33, sat out last season because of personal reasons and last played in the majors in 2010 with the Nationals and Texas Rangers.
Guzman started his career with the Minnesota Twins and had six solid seasons there, while leading the league in triples three times. After signing with Washington, injuries and ineffectiveness derailed his first two years in the nation’s capital. He was reborn in 2007 after missing the entire ’06 campaign, but only played in 46 games, but did hit .328 during that stretch. He was traded to Texas at the 2010 trade deadline in hopes that he’d help the Rangers in a potential playoff run. Playing both middle infield position, Guzman wound up not making the postseason roster and Texas lost to the San Francisco Giants in the World Series.
The way I’ll remember Guzman with the Nationals is when he represented the team in the 2008 All-Star game in the Bronx. Playing for the NL, he entered the game as a pinch-runner in the 9th inning and was stranded. Since the benches were nearly emptied, manager Clint Hurdle (who then managed the Rockies) put Guzman at third base, a position he never played at during a regular season game in the majors. In the 10th inning, he made a phenomenal stop to rob Evan Longoria of a walk-off RBI. With one out, Guzman dove to his right and threw home to get the force out, saving the NL temporarily and sparing Dan Uggla, who committed two errors in the frame. Guzman also ended the following two innings with routine plays. It’s safe to say he played great at the hot corner and gave the National League a chance to end a long losing streak in the Midsummer Classic.
With the Indians taking a shot at the 11-year veteran, somebody still thinks he can possibly compete at baseball’s highest level. After struggling mightily with Texas, hitting only .152 in 46 at-bats, maybe another change of scenery will help him become more like the good player we saw at the beginning of the 21st century. If not, I applaud the way he played with heart and intensity throughout his career. Good luck, CG!