Matt Williams Talks Nationals' Second Baseman Anthony Rendon

USA TODAY Sports

There will be an open competition for the starting job at second this spring. Washington Nationals' skipper Matt Williams reiterated that point yesterday. Anthony Rendon and Danny Espinosa are going to battle it out for the starting spot in the nation's capital.

Anthony Rendon said he was happy with what he accomplished in his first major league campaign when he spoke to reporters last month. Rendon missed significant time in his first pro campaign in 2012 when he suffered a partial fracture of his ankle, and he was called up for good in June last summer after just 79 games in two seasons in the Nationals' minor league system after Washington drafted him sixth overall in 2011. Rendon was worth +1.5 fWAR over 98 games with the Nats in 2013, putting up a .265/.329/.396 line with 23 doubles and seven home runs in 394 plate appearances.

"You never want to stay comfortable where you're at. You want to keep getting better and keep working hard." - Anthony Rendon on preparing for the 2014 season

"I'm pretty confident in what I did," Rendon said of his first major league campaign. "It could have been better, it could have been worse."

With all he accomplished, however, Rendon knew he was heading to Spring Training to compete for the starting job at second. Rendon replaced the struggling infielder Danny Espinosa last summer, but Espinosa's healthy now and determined to compete for the starting job. Matt Williams told reporters yesterday that it would be an open competition this Spring.

"It's not my decision in the end," Rendon acknowledged last month. "If they feel I'm the one that's going to be out there to help the team, it's going to be me, if not, I'm going to be cheering on the other teammates."

He was excited to be reunited with Matt Williams once he got to the Nats' Spring Training facilities in Viera, FL. The one managing gig on Williams' resume when he was hired by the Nationals this winter was a stint in the Arizona Fall League where he managed a Salt River Rafters team that featured several Nats' prospects, including Rendon.

After returning from his ankle injury in 2012, Rendon put up a .338/.436/.494 line with 10 doubles in 22 games and 94 plate appearances in the so-called "finishing school" for the game's top prospects. He also got a good impression of what Wiliams is like as a manager. "That was a great thing for him because that's where he actually got his time to manage," Rendon said. "And that was his opportunity to show people he could bring out the best in his players, and I believe he did that."

"That was his opportunity to show people he could bring out the best in his players, and I believe he did that..." - Anthony Rendon on Matt Williams as manager in the AFL

Williams was asked on Saturday about how good a look he's been able to get at Rendon and what he thought of the young infielder, who was drafted as a third baseman and shifted to second right before he was called up last summer.

"I had Anthony in the Fall League playing third," Williams said. "Last year, it was a little bit rushed for him. He had his wisdom teeth pulled, and then had a few days of second base before he got to the big leagues. Otherwise he'd played third most of the time. So, I think he did a great job of adjusting on the fly. It's not easy. So, I think he can play both positions and be good at both. Which is a good thing. The need last year was for somebody to come up and play second. And he handled it fine. I think he did really well his first year in the big leagues."

As Williams has reiterated all winter and again this spring in his first few conversations from Spring Training, there will be an open competition for the starting job at second. "I believe it's open competition and that's all you can say about it at this point," he explained. "They haven't even taken their first grounder officially yet. But I think that it's good to have competition in Spring. It makes guys come into camp ready and they're both going to be competing. And I think that's a good thing. There's no favorite at this point, we're going to give them both ample opportunity to become the starter and we'll see where we go."

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