Nothing went right for the Nationals once the game started yesterday, but one thing that happened before first pitch was perfect: The Nationals called up top prospect Anthony Rendon on the precise day that gives them a chance to maximize his ability this season while not losing a year of his service before he becomes eligible for free agency.

In baseball’s esoteric collective bargaining agreement, there is always a long-winded explanation. As we move through the version of how service time rules pertain to Rendon’s call-up, keep in mind three particulars.

1. By Sunday morning, exactly 20 days had expired since opening day.

2. All players must accumulate six full seasons of service to become eligible for free agency.

3. Rendon signed a major league contract worth $7.2 million out of the 2011 draft, but that big league deal does not affect his service time. His first day was yesterday.

While all players need six major league seasons before free agency, there is a sliding scale for constitutes a full season. A player who starts the season in the minors and not on the 40-man roster can spend the first 12 days of the season in the minors, get called up and not have that season count toward his free agency status. A player who starts the season in the minors, but who is also on the 40-man roster, would have needed to miss the first 20 days of the season to delay free agency by a year.

By virtue of his big league deal, Rendon was on the 40-man roster. When the Nationals called him up, he had spent – you guessed it – 20 days in the minors.

If Rendon had joined the Nationals on Saturday and then remained in the majors for the remainder of 2013, he could have become a free agent after the 2018 season. Because he waited one more day, he will not be able to become a free agent until 2019, even if the Nationals never send him back to the minors.

The point will be moot if Rendon ends up spending another chunk of the season in the minors. The Nationals have insisted Rendon will likely return to Class AA Harrisburg after Ryan Zimmerman returns from the disabled list. But the timing of his call-up suggests their minds may be more open to letting him stay all year than they’ve let on. They positioned themselves to get his maximum value this year and into the future, guaranteeing themselves an extra year of contractual control of Rendon while maximizing his potential impact in 2013.


The Nationals looked their worst in a 2-0 loss to the Mets that hinged Jayson Werth’s pivotal mistake.

The Cardinals are coming back to Washington, the city in which Pete Kozma has earned Most Hated Player status, writes Barry Svrluga.


Werth’s 3-0 swing

Rendon arrives

Zimmerman to the DL


Scranton/Wilkes-Barre 5, Syracuse 1: Jeff Kobernus went 2 for 4. Zach Walters went 1 for 3. Danny Rosenbaum allowed two runs in 5 2/3 innings on seven hits and four walks, striking out one.

Altoona 4, Harrisburg 1: Brian Goodwin went 1 for 4 with a home run. Josh Johnson went 2 for 3 with a double. Blake Treinen allowed two earned runs in seven innings on seven hits and no walks, striking out eight. Ian Krol struck out two in two perfect relief innings. On Saturday, Nathan Karns allowed one run in seven innings on two hits and a walk, striking out 13.

Potomac 3, Frederick 1: Robbie Ray allowed one earned run in six innings on two hits and four walks, striking out 10. Billy Burns went 2 for 4. Jason Martinson went 2 for 3 with a walk. Michael Taylor went 1 for 3 with a double.

West Virginia 11, Hagerstown 2: Estarlin Martinez went 3 for 4 with a double. Wander Ramos went 1 for 4 with a homer. Brian Dupra allowed five runs in four innings on seven hits and four walks, striking out two.