Anthony Rendon was 12 for 32 (.375/.412/.875) with four doubles and four home runs in Grapefruit League action with the Washington Nationals this Spring. The 22-year-old, 2011 1st Round pick started his second pro season at Double-A Harrisburg, where he was 14 for 48, (.292/.462/.500) with four doubles and two home runs in 14 games and 65 plate appearances before he was called up to make his MLB debut on Sunday in New York in place of Ryan Zimmerman, who was DL'd with a hamstring issue. Asked about the possibility of Rendon sticking with the big league team once the incumbent third baseman returns from his injury, Nationals' manager Davey Johnson told reporters today, including the Washington Post's James Wagner, "'I don't care if he hits .900, there's no way he's beating out Ryan Zimmerman.'"
Of course, the Nationals did say the same when Bryce Harper was called up last season (when Zim landed on the DL with what was later diagnosed as inflammation in the AC joint in his right shoulder), but that doesn't mean the same will be true for Rendon, regardless of how successful he is while in the majors. Rendon missed significant time last summer after suffering a partial fracture of his left ankle just two games into his first pro campaign, and he's gotten just 57 games and 225 plate appearances in so far since the Nationals drafted him sixth overall out of Rice University in 2011.
Rendon does, however, still have two years on Harper, who just turned 20 last October. In an interview on MASN before Rendon's MLB debut yesterday, D.C. GM Mike Rizzo described the Nats' top infield prospect as a "quick guy to the big leagues," who the team thinks, "... has a bright future."
"[Rendon] gives us a good option both offensively and defensively," Rizzo explained when discussing the decision to call the third baseman up, "And not only strengthens us there, but also allows [Steve Lombardozzi] and Chad Tracy to go back to their most comfortable position, which is helping us off the bench, and [it] really strengthens our bench."
Rendon made a nice defensive play in New York, catching a foul pop that was headed for the third base dugout, but he was 0 for 4 at the plate in his first game. As Rendon told reporters this afternoon, he was just happy to get that first game out of the way. "It feels good to get it out of the way," Rendon explained, "I guess if you've got to get the first one out of the way [and] just take it home from there. I don't think you can get any worse. I don't think you can go negative in the batting average."
"I felt good," Rendon said of his first few MLB at bats, "I felt pretty confident up there. I was relaxed. Just try to take a deep breath [and] take it like any other game."
Rendon said he was actually getting ready for Saturday's game with the Double-A Harrisburg Senators when he got the news that he was getting called up to make his Major League debut. Two days later he's in the nation's capital where he'll make his home debut for the Nationals against the St. Louis Cardinals. "It's pretty unreal," Rendon said, "This is the [thing] that you kind of dream about as you're a kid growing up. You play baseball your whole life and you kind of work toward this and it's kind of a dream come true that you even got this far."
Rendon was considered one of the top hitting prospects available in the 2011 Draft before a shoulder injury caused his stock to fall and left him available for the Nats with the sixth overall pick. He said today that he thinks he'll be more successful as he gets more comfortable at the major league level. "The more at bats you get, the more comfortable you're going to feel, obviously," Rendon said, "That's just the way baseball is, it's all about repetition. And so I think the more at bats I get the better I'm going to feel."
Rendon's family will be in Nationals Park tonight after they were unable to make it to New York in time for his debut on Sunday. He said this afternoon there's some comfort in knowing that he'll be out there every day until Zimmerman returns. "It's a good feeling," Rendon said, "I guess it's a good feeling just to get out there every day and knowing that you're going to be in the lineup and you can redeem yourself possibly the next day and when you have a day off, sometimes people can get out of rhythm, and so being in there every day kind of helps."
Asked about how he's handling the fact that he's likely to return to the minors once Zimmerman returns, Rendon said it wasn't a concern. "I'm just taking it one day at a time," Rendon responded, "They called me up here, so I'm just going to play wherever they tell me to play. I'm trying not to worry about it. So I've just got to take it one day at a time, so we'll see how it [plays] out."
• Listen to the audio via MASNSports.com's Byron Kerr below:
Audio: Rendon speaks to media prior to home debut tmblr.co/Zp1QgujJ4Wv7— Byron Kerr (@masnKerr) April 22, 2013