UPDATE: Guzman took the decision in stride and told Ladson that he is “willing to do anything the Nats ask of him.” He will not demand a trade.
SATURDAY, 10:41pm: MLB.com’s Bill Ladson passes along some refreshing news out of Nationals camp. According to team sources, 24-year-old prospect Ian Desmond has captured the club’s Opening Day shortstop gig from Cristian Guzman.
Desmond, a third-round pick in 2007, has moved swiftly through the Nats’ farm system. He posted a .330/.401/.477 batting line last season with seven homers, 32 RBI and 21 stolen bases in 394 plate appearances between Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse.
We’re sure to see some rough patches from Desmond, who hasn’t appeared in more than 25 major league games, but manager Jim Riggleman has been praising the youngster all spring and obviously has faith that he will adjust to full-time big league life with little effort. Guzman will probably be relegated to a utility infield role, or perhaps Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo will attempt a trade. The 32-year-old hit an ugly .284/.306/.390 last season with six home runs and 52 RBI in 531 at-bats. He’s been dealing with a balky shoulder for most of spring training.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.