Anthony Rendon stood at his locker in the visitors’ clubhouse in Atlanta following Thursday’s game, packing his belongings like the rest of his Nationals teammates. But even though Rendon was headed to Pittsburgh with them, he would head on to Harrisburg immediately after that. General Manager Mike Rizzo spotted him, came up to him and shook his hand. Manager Davey Johnson had done the same after the game, too.
Rendon, 22, the Nationals’ top prospect, started at third base on Thursday and had his best day at the plate, 2 for 3 with a walk, in the Nationals’ 3-1 win over the Braves. He ended his brief time with the major league team on a high note, as he was headed back to the minors on Friday when Ryan Zimmerman was set to be activated from the disabled list. Rendon was called up earlier than he ever expected when Zimmerman was hobbled by a hamstring strain. He played in eight games and fans got a chance to see the much-talked-about, sweet-swinging infielder that the Nationals have so coveted.
“He’s done very well in the field and he’s had some awfully good at-bats,” Johnson said. “It’s not going to be long before he’s back here. He’s a good player.”
Before the game, Rendon hadn’t officially been told what would happen but he expected to be heading back to Harrisburg. He shares a townhouse there with another Nationals prospect, pitcher Nate Karns, that was affordable enough for either to pay alone in the event that the other would be promoted or called up. When Rendon returns to Harrisburg and the long bus rides to games, he will have the fond memories of his early two-week stint of living his dream.
“It was awesome,” Rendon said. “Your expectations, you didn’t really know what to expect. Obviously, you have a lot of thoughts going through your mind but you don’t know what’s going to happen until you get here. I think it’s been a good experience. I got a taste of what it’s going to be like … and I know what to work on when I go back and I know what to look forward to if I get to come back.”
Rendon played only third base in the major leagues but when he returns to Class AA Harrisburg he will continue to rotate around the infield. Last season, his first in professional baseball, he only played 43 games because of a fractured ankle. He has had little time in the minors and the Nationals believe he needs more seasoning. He finished 6 for 25 with five walks in eight major league games and played strong defense, flashing his quick, strong throwing arm.
“The game is played a lot smarter up here,” he said. “Up here, everybody knows that they have talent and that they’re pretty much on the same level. But it’s just how you play the game. Actually, pitching this way or playing your position this way. It’s a lot smarter and looking deeper into the game.”
Rendon notched his first major league hit on April 22, his second major league game. But it didn’t sink in until later when first base coach Tony Tarasco told him he was official. “‘You got that hit,’” Rendon recalls Tarasco said. “‘You’re an official big leaguer and nobody can take that away from you.’ I was like, ‘Dang, he has a point.’” And now that Rendon has experienced the major leagues, he knows exactly what to anticipate when he returns, likely as a September call-up or before then should any more injuries occur.
“I just gotta go out there and continue to play baseball every day and if they do happen to call me up again, I’ll try to help the team,” he said. “Maybe my day will come. Until then, I gotta try and go out there and keep working hard.”
FROM THE POST
FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Norfolk 8, Syracuse 2: Will Rhymes went 2 for 4 and an RBI, and is hitting .326. Jeff Kobernus, a Rule Five Pick who was returned from the Tigers and has been playing the outfield, started at third base and went 2 for 4. Ryan Perry started and allowed seven runs on nine hits over four innings, and walked four.
Harrisburg 6, New Britain 1: Left fielder Jerad Head went 3 for 5 with a home run, and is hitting .315. Josh Johnson and Kris Watts also drove in two runs each. Nate Karns allowed only one run on three hits over 6 1/3 innings, walking three and striking out three. After his demotion from Syracuse, Pat McCoy has 3 1/3 scoreless innings.
Potomac 5, Carolina 1: Leadoff hitter Billy Burns went 2 for 3 and Adrian Sanchez finished 3 for 4. Khayyan Norfork drove in two runs. Taylor Jordan tossed eight scoreless innings, allowing only five hits and striking out four. His ERA sits at 1.24.
Hagerstown 3, Augusta 2: Tony Renda went 3 for 4 and drove in two runs, and Wander Ramos knocked an RBI double. Pedro Encarnacion allowed only three hits over six scoreless innings.