Anthony Rendon was walking in from batting practice late Tuesday afternoon, and dragging his wooden bat behind him when a fan shouted the question on everyone’s mind these days.
No, not that question. For now, for at least a few days, Rendon’s impending free agency will wait as another situation is sorted out.
“Are you going to go?” the fan asked, wondering whether the 29-year-old third baseman would travel to Cleveland for his first All-Star Game next week. Rendon smiled, put a finger to his lips — as if to quiet the curiosity — and then ducked out of sight. If he had it his way, he would spend the break with his family, maybe in his hometown of Houston, definitely where nobody could bother him. Not reporters, first and foremost, or anyone else looking for an interview or autograph or more of his time. Rendon has expressed his gratitude at being selected, but he is still unsure whether he will go for the game and surrounding festivities.
He has been slowed by minor injuries in recent weeks, he reaffirmed Tuesday, and said he may be better off resting for the second half. Players can skip the all-star break for medical or personal reasons. And there’s a chance Rendon does.
“It’s still not set in stone if I’m going yet,” Rendon said. “I’ve got a lot of injuries or little ailments that I’m dealing with right now. It’s the kind of decision where I’m thinking about, I may want to get my body back to 100 percent over those four days instead of actually dealing with all this and actually not getting time to rest. So I’m still thinking about it.”
“I have a funny feeling — this is just me speaking, I don’t speak for Anthony — but I think he’ll show up in Cleveland,” Manager Dave Martinez said before the Nationals beat the Miami Marlins, 3-2, on Tuesday. “It’s fun. They’re not playing three days in a row. He’s not doing the Home Run Derby. I think he needs to experience it and see what it’s like and go in there and play three of four innings.”
Martinez and Rendon certainly have different definitions of fun. Rendon doesn’t like doing interviews, to say the least, and Monday will include a long, mandatory media session. He also would have to talk with reporters after playing in the game. And while Rendon likes his privacy, taking any chance to get it, this would be two days on one of the sport’s bigger stages. None of it is his style.
Rendon has seemed a bit slower recently, considering he has started in 50 straight games since returning from the injured list May 7. He was sidelined by a left elbow contusion for a few weeks. Martinez noted in Miami last week that he told Rendon to take it easy when he could — like by jogging out singles, for example — and the manager didn’t mention any injuries. Rendon wouldn’t share specifics Tuesday, unsurprisingly, and passed off his “ailments” as the hazards of a long season.
“If I can go out there and I can do my job and I can actually help the team out, then I’ll play,” Rendon said when asked whether his status has been in question. “Injuries are a part of this game. Nicks and bruises, that’s the price you pay for playing 162 games, 180 days or whatever it might be. It happens. You’ve just got to work through it.”
Now Rendon has a big decision to make with the break quickly approaching. A few days of complete rest may go a long way. If an all-star selection factors into future negotiations, and it very well could, he was chosen either way. The game no longer counts for anything, not even home-field advantage in the World Series, and so what’s even the point? That’s what Rendon will calculate in the coming days, weighing the pros against the cons, and see where that takes him.
Maybe Cleveland. Maybe not.
“Nah,” Rendon said, dragging out that lone syllable, when asked whether he would set a deadline to choose. “I think I’ll tweet it.”
“It’s a great honor, and I’m very appreciative,” he added. “But at the same time, I play for the Nationals, and so I want to be at 100 percent, or at least close to that, and keep putting myself in position every day to actually help my team.”
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