Anthony Rendon smashed another home run yesterday, which will not halt the futile drumbeat for him to make the Nationals out of spring training, or even take over at a position in the Nationals’ infield. But when Davey Johnson says Rendon “needs to go play,” there is a reason for it.
A recent conversation with an AL scout underscored Johnson’s assertion. The scout marveled at Rendon’s uncanny ability to deliver the barrel to the ball so consistently. But he also identified a slight hitch at the start of his swing, a tiny loop he makes as he starts his swing. The scout was not alarmed — he did not think he had spotted some fatal, otherwise unseen flaw that would lead to Rendon’s ruin. But he casually made the point that, if you gave major league pitchers a crack at studying him, they would exploit that minor problem in his swing. “That’ll show up,” he said.
He followed that up by saying Rendon is “probably” one of the Nationals’ 25 best players right now. But the point remained: Rendon, impressive as he is, is not yet a fully formed product. He is 22, and because of injury he has taken fewer than 300 plate appearances as a professional, including the Arizona Fall League.
He’s not far away, as evidence by his smoking spring: 8 for 20, three homers, three doubles, a walk and another would-be home run that Matt den Dekker pulled back over the wall. But Rendon is not there yet. When the Nationals call Rendon to the majors, they want it to be for good. It will be a short wait. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t good reason to wait.
FROM THE POST
The burgeoning Phillies-Nationals rivalry is now adding chapters even in spring training, James Wagenr writes.
FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
The Nationals will visit the Astros in Kissimmee for a 1:05 p.m. start. Gio Gonzalez will make this third start of the spring, and his final tuneup before heading to the World Baseball Classic (so long as Team USA makes the second round). No lineup available yet, but here are the players who on the travel roster yesterday morning:
DAYS UNTIL OPENING DAY