Watching Anthony Rendon swing the bat when he was with the big league club this Spring, Washington Nationals' third baseman Ryan Zimmerman had a question for reporters including MLB.com's Bill Ladson, who quoted the Nats' 28-year-old '05 1st Round pick asking, "Are there any other positions he plays?" The talk since the time the Nationals' drafted Rendon sixt overall in the 1st Round of the 2011 Draft has been about where the highly-regarded prospect would play when he finally made his way up to the majors. Would the Rice University third baseman move to second when he finally came up? Would his arrival mean a move to first for Ryan Zimmerman? What did the two-year deal with Adam LaRoche mean for Rendon's future?
For the next few weeks Rendon is expected to be playing third for the Nationals. He'll make his first major league start Sunday in New York's Citi Field in the finale of the three-game set with the Mets. Washington called their top prospect up following Saturday's win over NY after announcing that they'd placed Zimmerman on the DL with a hamstring strain that kept him out of the lineup in the first two games against the Mets. According to what Davey Johnson told reporters after Bryce Harper led the Nationals to a win over the Nats' NL East rivals from New York, Rendon will likely bat sixth in the lineup on Sunday.
From what both the Nationals' manager and General Manager Mike Rizzo said today, however, Rendon will be up until Zimmerman returns and then a decision will be made about his future. As the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore wrote after talking to the skipper and the GM, "... they expect Rendon to return to the minors when Zimmerman comes off the disabled list." Earlier this week, when Rizzo was asked about the plan for the Nats' top prospect this season, he said it remained the same as it's been all Spring.
"The plan hasn't changed since Spring Training," Rizzo explained to 106.7 the FAN In D.C.'s Holden Kushner and Danny Rouhier, "since we drafted him really. The plan is -- he's a third baseman by trade. He'll get the majority of his reps at third base, but as we've seen in Spring Training where Davey used him at shortstop and at second base, just to get him a little more versatility and a look at some different positions and he's played extremely well."
"He's a terrific defensive third baseman and [started] off the season well," the Nats' GM continued, "He's got a great approach at the plate as we've seen. He's a usually a guy that has more walks than strikeouts. He's got power potential and the potential to hit for a high average. And he's got a very sound, simple approach at the plate and he's developing as we thought he would and [is] a guy who will help us in the near-future I think."
Just how soon the "near-future" arrived was a surprise to most. The Nationals downplayed some intial speculation when Rendon was scratched from the lineup before Saturday afternoon's game with the Double-A Harrisburg Senators, shortly after reports came out which said Zimmerman received an MRI on his bothersome hamstring. It was an inury to Zimmerman last April that led the Nats to speed up the plan with another top prospect.
Right shoulder inflammation, which would later be remedied by a cortisone shot, put Zimmerman on the DL in the first month of the 2012 campaign, and Rizzo explained to reporters at the time that they were bringing Bryce Harper up a little earlier than planned.
"I'm not going to commit either way that [Harper] will be sent back to the minor leagues or stay in the big leagues," Rizzo told reporters at the time when asked if the young outfielder was up to stay. "When Zim gets off the disabled list, we'll be monitoring the situation obviously on a daily basis and we'll make our decisions then." After Harper went 6 for 16 with four doubles in his first five games, Rizzo said the team still had a plan in place in a USA Today Sports' article by Spencer Israel. "'We have a developmental plan for Bryce Harper. It's been well documented,'" Rizzo said, "'But we're not dumb either.'"
Can a similarly strong start for Rendon change the Nationals' plans? Well they're "not dumb," as Rizzo said last year, but the circumstances are different, of course, with the Nats' currently crowded infield. Enjoy it while it lasts and see what Rendon can do. When healthy he's proven to be exactly the type of hitter he was projected to be after his collegiate career. Rendon is 14 for 48, (.292/.462/.500) with four doubles and two home runs in 14 games and 65 plate appearances so far this season at Double-A Harrisburg. Rizzo's called him a "Gold Glove-caliber" defender in the past. This afternoon will be his first opportunity to show what he can do at the major league level. Rendon will be starting at third when the Nats take on the Mets at 1:10 pm EST. Don't miss it.
• Nats' Sunday Lineup:
#Nats Lineup: Span CF, Werth RF, Harper LF, LaRoche 1B, Desmond SS, Rendon 3B, Espinosa 2B, Suzuki C, Zimmermann RHP— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) April 21, 2013