In a game last week against the Marlins, Nationals infielder Anthony Rendon sprinted down the third base line to field a bunt from Reed Johnson.
Rendon barehanded the ball and threw it to first just in time to record an out.
It was nothing new for Washington’s opening day starting second baseman, who played third in college at Rice.
“I guess I still have a little bit left,” Rendon said.
That particular play came when Ryan Zimmerman was sidelined with a shoulder injury. Since then, Zimmerman broke his thumb and was placed on the 15-day disabled list. Rendon has had to temporarily shift from second to third.
Rendon played third base in nine of Washington’s first 18 games. He’s started five at third and has a perfect fielding percentage at the position, recording three putouts and 10 assists in 13 defensive chances.
“He’s accustomed to playing over there,” Nationals manager Matt Williams said. “It’s not something that’s foreign to him.”
Before he was called up a year ago, Rendon spent plenty of time at third base in the minors, playing there in 56 games. With Zimmerman experiencing shoulder problems and first baseman Adam LaRoche, 34, facing a mutual option decision in 2015, Washington could move Zimmerman across the diamond and make Rendon the club’s full-time third baseman.
In the meantime, Rendon’s simply subbing in with Danny Espinosa manning second, where Espinosa opened 2013 as the starter.
“We don’t want Ryan down but if something like this happens … we have not only Anthony, but we have Danny who can play Gold Glove defense in the middle,” Williams said. “It’s one of the reasons why both of them are on our team. If something does happen like this, we can put guys in different spots.”
In addition to his defense, Rendon has gotten off to a hot start at the plate. Before Wednesday’s game against Miami, Rendon held a .345 batting average, second-best on the Nationals behind Zimmerman’s .364. After slumping a bit in last weekend’s series against the Braves, Rendon bounced back with three hits, including a double and a triple, in the first two games of Washington’s midweek series against the Marlins.
One key to his start has been an even-keeled approach, which has kept him from pressing in games.
“I feel comfortable and feel relaxed,” Rendon said. “I try to stay relaxed so I don’t try to do too much.”