The Nationals called up top prospect Anthony Rendon, 23, on Sunday to man third base while Ryan Zimmerman recovered from a minor hamstring strain that landed him on the disabled list. Manager Davey Johnson dislikes having young players sit on the bench, but the circumstances have dictated otherwise.
General Manager Mike Rizzo said Thursday that Rendon is “going to play every day somewhere,” whether it’s in the big leagues or minor leagues. But Johnson has had to prioritize jump-starting a slumping offense with one of the team’s best but lesser-used hitters, Steve Lombardozzi.
“It’s kinda difficult when I’m looking for someone in the lineup to kinda set the table and he’s not in that category,” Johnson said of Rendon. “Nothing against his ability but I’m trying to create a lineup that can feed of itself. And I’m going day by day. I don’t like to change a winner.”
The Nationals still think highly of Rendon, a sweet-swinging infielder whose first professional season last year was limited to 43 games because of a fractured ankle. He played four straight games since Sunday, going 2 for 15. Rendon will head back to Class AA Harrisburg when Zimmerman returns, potentially as soon as next Friday.
“I like the way he plays,” Rizzo said Thursday. “He’s got a calmness about him, in the batter’s box and in the field and I thought he’s had some good at-bats against some quality pitching. I think he’s going to be a guy that’s going to help us in the near future a lot.”
But on Thursday, the Nationals produced their largest offensive output since Saturday, scoring eight runs and smacking 12 hits with Lombardozzi in the lineup. Even though Lombardozzi went 0 for 4, Johnson believes in the second-year player’s .314 on-base percentage. Lombardozzi was also a key cog in the Nationals’ success through a myriad of injuries last season.
“That outweighs the need to play a youngster,” Johnson said. “And I don’t necessarily like youngster sitting on the bench or coming into the game late and pinch hit. But I think we’re better served as a group having Lombo in there.”