Anthony Rendon grew up an Astros fan in Houston, rooting every fifth game for Roy Oswalt in his prime. Last night, Rendon stepped into the batter’s box and stared out at Oswalt, like one of his baseball cards had come to life. In three at-bats against Oswalt, Rendon smacked two hits.
His hits off a childhood favorite underscored Rendon’s age and how he has helped lift a sagging offense. Since Rendon was recalled June 4 and replaced Danny Espinosa at second base, the 22-year-old rookie has been the Nationals’ best hitter, putting up a .365/.400/.538 line in 13 games.
He has the kind of bat that makes teams willing to wedge him into an unfamiliar position, which is exactly what the Nationals have done. Rendon is still gaining comfort at second base. Rendon appeared in eight games at second before the Nationals called up him to make him their everyday second baseman. He last played the position regularly in Little League.
“It’s the same stuff,” Rendon said. “It’s still baseball. The bases just got bigger.”
“I’m kind of re-learning the position,” Rendon added. “I guess you could say that. I’ve played it before, and I’m kind of going back to it.”
Rendon has showed impressive instincts with his footwork around the bases and in other, subtle plays. In Philadelphia, Ben Revere hit a moderately slow grounder to the right side. Rendon charged and flicked the ball with his glove to Adam LaRoche, a difficult play he made look easy.
“He’s had only two double plays to turn, but I’ve liked the work on both of them,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “His transition has been great.”
In other areas, though, Rendon’s learning curve has surfaced. He has made three errors in 13 games at second, one of which came on a fluke – he dropped a pop-up he lost in the sun. Last night, Johnson lightly scolded him for his latest error. In the eighth inning, with a five-run lead, Rendon fielded a grounder and threw to second, trying for the lead runner, and the ball scooted under Ian Desmond’s glove.
“It was probably the smartest play just to get the out,” Rendon said. “I was told growing, never be scared to make a play. I wanted to get the double play obviously. I guess in that time, you just get the out. It wasn’t a big deal.”
Rendon’s natural ability have convinced the Nationals any most outside observers he’ll make a smooth transition to second base for as long as he needs to play there. “I know he will be fine at second,” one NL scout said. The biggest adjustment for now, Johnson said, may be positioning.
“Fielding the ball is fielding the ball,” Rendon said. “It’s trying to be where you’re supposed to be at the right time and instead of just thinking about it, have it be instinct.”