VIERA, Fla. — Like so many of his teammates, Anthony Rendon hopes for better in 2016. Like so many of his teammates, he hopes to be healthy after spending most of last season hampered by injuries.
First, there was the bruised MCL, suffered while diving in spring training. Second came the strained oblique, suffered while rehabbing. Then, a strained quad that kept Rendon out another month, and left him fighting to find his timing in late July.
Rendon said he “feels great” after three and a half months of offseason training and rest, “the same routine” as he used in the past.
“We stuck to the same routine. We incorporated flexibility and dynamic stretching and dynamic working. You name it. That’s what we’ve been doing for the last few years,” Rendon said.
“I don’t think me banging my knee in spring training had anything to do with my training in the prior offseason. That was just a course of bad luck.”
How does one avoid bad luck?
“Don’t dive for any balls in spring training,” said Rendon, who believes the initial dive led to all the trouble, including the strained quad.
“That’s from de-conditioning from the knee, coming back and not getting enough reps and running enough,” Rendon said. “Obviously, your knee goes away so your muscle has to pull from the knee to hinder it or take over control when your knee is weak.”
By the end of the season, Rendon had played 80 games, accumulated a .264 average and .344 on-base percentage with five home runs — a notable drop from his Silver Slugging numbers a year before. He had also played most of those games at second base, which is not his natural position, and never seemed to find comfort in the field or at the plate.
This season, Rendon is back to third base, his natural position, where he is a plus-defender. He will not have to worry about switching between positions. He will not have to worry about turning double plays, or straining to make the kind of uncomfortable throws against momentum second base sometimes requires.
“Everyone always says don’t take you defense into hitting and don’t take your hitting into defense,” Rendon said. “If you feel comfortable at one of the other, I think the other is going to feed off the other.”
Rendon will be a key part of a new-look infield, one without stalwart Ian Desmond at shortstop, and with new acquisition Daniel Murphy at second. Asked about Desmond, Rendon wondered aloud, realizing he might have moved to a locker neighboring the one Desmond used to occupy.
“He was always a close teammate of mine and someone I looked up to,” Rendon said. “He carried himself the right way on and off the field. He’s going to be missed.”
Without him, the Nationals will find leadership elsewhere, Rendon said, in a new manager who “speaks the truth,” and somewhere among themselves.
“We’ll see who is going to step up this spring training or take that role,” Rendon said. “I think as a whole we’ve all got to be a part of it, instead of having him or one individual leader leading the pack.”