In his first few days in the big leagues, Anthony Rendon admitted to nerves. He felt comfortable with his teammates, whom he had met across two spring trainings, but the surroundings – a giant clubhouse, tens of thousands of people in the stands, better pitching – took some getting used to.
His anxiousness may have shown most in one regard. At Rice, Rendon became the first college player in almost 15 years to draw 80 walks in season. In the minors, Rendon walked 37 times in 225 plate appearances – once every six plate appearances, Rendon took his base.
In the majors, Rendon’s patience dissolved. He drew no walks in his first four games, a total of 15 plate appearances, while striking out five times. Manager Davey Johnson gave Rendon consecutive days off, and since then he has recaptured his typical approach.
Saturday against the Reds, Rendon drew his first walk and added a single. Sunday, he reached base three times, walking twice and smacking one of the Nationals’ two hits off left-hander Tony Cingrani, Rendon’s college teammate. There is danger is applying any meaning to a weekend sampling, but Rendon seems to be settling in, having reached base in five of his last eight plate appearances.
“You’re just staying more relaxed,” Rendon said. “You’re around your element a little bit more,” Rendon said. “You’re used to your surroundings. That’s the way baseball is. You just got to get used to everything.”
Aside from reaching base, Rendon had an adventurous day. He made a throwing error, pulling Adam LaRoche a few inches off the bag after snaring a chopper deep in the shortstop-third base hole. He nearly pulled off a remarkable play, stabbing a high-hopper on a dive to his left and then firing across the diamond, only for the throw to barely pull LaRoche off first.
Rendon also had a base running play that exemplified a frustrating day for the Nationals. In the fifth inning, Rendon stood on first. Denard Span roped a sinking liner to left field. Rendon took off on contact, then slowed around second base. “The left fielder looked like he was going to let the ball drop,” Rendon said, and he didn’t want to be thrown at third base.
Instead, Xavier Paul slid to catch the ball, and it deflected off his glove and rolled away. Rendon re-started, and third base coach Trent Jewett waved him home. Paul fired to shortstop Zack Cozart, who relayed the ball home. Rendon slid into Miller’s mitt, out by 10 or so feet.
“I gotta listen to the coach,” Rendon said.
He was at his locker, smiling as he talked to reporters, one more day in the big leagues complete. Rendon may not have much more time remaining in his first big league stint. Ryan Zimmerman is set to come off the disabled list Friday in Pittsburgh, and Nationals officials have said they anticipate Rendon heading back to the minors. But it seems like Rendon is starting to gain comfort for the next few days, and for the next time he’s here, which will not be long.