The Washington Nationals' first 2011 1st Round pick, Anthony Rendon, participated in a teleconference with the D.C. press corps this afternoon to discuss his selection, sixth overall, on the first day of the MLB First-Year Player Draft last night. Rendon, who also turned 21 yesterday, suffered ankle and shoulder issues which limited him to a DH role for most of the past season, and some believe, resulted in his falling to the Nats at the no.6 spot after he'd been projected as high as no.1 overall in the weeks leading up to the draft.
Was he surprised that he dropped to no.6, and did he think his injury issues played a role? "Yeah, I thought it had to take a role," Rendon said, "I'm just glad that I'm given the opportunity to extend my career, I guess you could say." The "polished", "accomplished" college hitter, and future, "consumate, professional hitter," as D.C. GM Mike Rizzo described him last night, said the injuries and the drop to sixth overall, "...didn't hurt me or nothing, because it's all in God's hands and it wasn't in my hands anymore and wherever I was meant to go, is where I'm meant to go, and I guess I'm meant to extend my career into the Nationals' organization."
Questions about where Rendon would play popped up immediately last night when his name was announced since Ryan Zimmerman, the Face of the Nats franchise, is currently firmly ensconced (though rehabbing an injury) as the Nationals' third baseman. Rendon, however said, "I feel comfortable everywhere. I just want to get the opportunity, I want to be in the lineup, I'm happy anywhere I play as long as the coach puts me in the lineup and I see my name on the lineup, anywhere in there, DH, right field, first base, pitcher, second base, I'm happy and I just want to be given the opportunity to play."
"Growing up," Rendon continued, "I played shortstop and second base. Growing up, I was always the smallest kid on the team. I really didn't start growing until my junior year in high school, I was probably 5'4'', and my sophomore year in high school I was 120lbs, so I always played second base and when I got older I played shortstop so, I'm just really comfortable in the infield."
The shoulder injury he suffered, according to Rendon, was, "a little muscle strain in the back of my shoulder," but, he said, "it's all fine now. I'm ready to get going, and I just thank the Nationals for giving me an opportunity, and, you know obviously they know nothing serious is wrong. I know nothing serious is wrong with it, I'm just glad I've been given the opportunity and I'm glad I've been drafted." The injury, Rendon said, did bother him when he threw, but he knew if he rested it, he would be fine. "But you know, it didn't bother me when I was swinging, I had a down year. Actually, I wouldn't even consider it a down year, people say that if you're a baseball player and you're successful three out of ten times, you're doing a good job, and I batted over .300, so, you know, I'm really happy."
Rendon said he'd played in spite of his injuries because he wanted to help his team at Rice. "Yeah, definitely, I do want to be known as a team player. I do not want to be known as a selfish guy. I'm not a selfish guy, but I just needed to rest it, I needed to take time off, I needed to not do anything, and I didn't want to do that, I knew if I rested, if I took off maybe ten games or this or that, and I didn't play at all, you know, who knows what will happen, maybe we wouldn't have even been in the post season. I didn't want to do that to my team, I wanted to be out there everywhere I could."
The shoulder, Rendon said, would not require surgery. "No. There's nothing wrong with my shoulder, it's just a little tweak and I know if I rest it I'll be fine. Doctors have looked at, I have my medical records out there, nothing's wrong it, I have nothing to hide. I know if I rest it, it will be 100%."
"When my name was called," Rendon explained when asked about the process of getting drafted, (which he says he didn't let get to him, since he knew most pre-draft rumors and conjecture came from an "outside source looking" in on what the teams were actually thinking), "It was a relief. I was happy about being selected. Thousands of kids probably wish they were in my shoes right now, I'm just glad to be blessed enough to be given this opportunity right now."
Also given an opportunity by the Nats, was TCU left-hander Matt Purke the Nats' 3rd Round pick, 96th overall another player with acknowledged shoulder issues. Rendon said he'd, "played on the same summer team," with Purke. "We played on the Houston Heat together, and he's a great kid, I enjoy his company." As for the Nationals as an organization, Rendon said, "The funny thing is, the first thing I thought of was, one of my good friends growing up, I've know him since I was about years old, J.P. Ramirez," a 21-year-old '08 Nats' 15th Round pick who's currently in Class-A Potomac, "We talked to each other in high school and I found out recently that he was with the Nationals, and then my name gets called, and I'm like, 'Hey, I may have the opportunity to go play with him, you know, it would be like old times. But when my name was called it was a relief, and I'm just happy about it, I'm excited about being drafted."