After a particularly impressive play to rob Los Angeles Dodgers' third baseman Adrian Beltre of a potential extra base hit in a late May game in the nation's capital, Washington Nationals' skipper Matt Williams, who played 1,743 games and earned five Gold Gloves at the hot corner over the course of his 17-year career, talked about Anthony Rendon's development as a major league third baseman.
Nats' GM Mike Rizzo told reporters that the Nationals evaluated Rendon as a potential Gold Glove-caliber third baseman before they drafted the Rice University infielder in the 1st Round of the 2011 Draft. Three years later, after Rendon spent most of his time in the majors at second but shifted back to third base with Ryan Zimmerman on the DL, Williams said the 23-going-on-24-year-old was really just starting to develop and get comfortable as a major league third baseman.
"He can be good," Williams told reporters. "He's still learning. He's still becoming accustomed to the position. You have to understand where Anthony has been, right? In college he didn't play a lot defensively because he had a [shoulder] issue. Then he had an ankle injury, and then he comes to the big leagues and he plays second base. So he hasn't been over there a lot. Everybody says that's kind of his natural position, but nonetheless, he hasn't been there. So he's still learning it. But he's making great strides."
• WATCH: Anthony Rendon robs Adrian Beltre:
According to what Williams has said recently, however, Rendon will be shifting back to second once Bryce Harper returns from the DL.
Zimmerman will go back to third, Williams explained this week, and Danny Espinosa will return to the utility role he was expected to fill at the start of the 2014 campaign.
Though he doesn't have a say in the matter, former Atlanta Braves' third baseman Chipper Jones, who played 1,992 games at third in his 19-year career, most likely would not support the decision to move Rendon away from third, at least based upon what he had to say about the Nationals' no.2 hitter this morning in an MLB Network Radio appearance. And about Rendon hitting second?
The comments came as Jones was talking about Zimmerman moving to the outfield as he himself did at one point with the Braves...
"I did it to help us be a better ballclub," Jones said. "It was cheaper for us to go out and get a Vinny Castilla for us to play third than it was a high-priced corner outfielder. And I felt like I was a good enough athlete to do it. I just couldn't keep my hamstrings in one piece and that's a serious problem. Hey, look, Zim is a great athlete. Does he have the typical characteristics of an All-Star outfielder? Maybe not. He probably doesn't run as well as I did early in my career. But, as his arm and his well-chronicled throwing problems at third base have gone, something has got to change.
"And Anthony Rendon is probably the best player on that team right now and they have to find somewhere for this kid to play because he can flat-out hit. I don't know why he's not hitting third right now, because he's the best hitter they've got. But Zim coming back, obviously you've got to get his bat in the lineup right away. He's backing up Adam LaRoche, hitting in the five-hole right now and doing a great job. And to be honest with you, I hear that Rendon is a little iffy and they've moved Zim back to third a little bit, so he's going to be back and forth. But I don't foresee there being any problems. I would love to see [Zim] get his throwing shoulder back in shape so that he can make that peg across to first base, because he is a dynamic defender when he is right."
Not sure what he means about Rendon being "iffy," and Zimmerman hasn't, of course, moved back to third yet, playing left exclusively since he returned from the DL, but the Nats' skipper has been clear that as of now he plans on moving Zim to third when Harper returns.
Before you ask, Williams also said the team never considered playing Zimmerman at second when a reporter asked during the last homestand. But is moving Rendon back to second base what's best for the Nationals?
Do the Nationals have to keep Danny Espinosa's glove in the game?
If Denard Span didn't pick things up in the last month or so would he be headed to the bench to make room for Harper's return?
Harper did tell The Washington Post's Adam Kilgore, while acknowledging Span's skills, that he preferred to play center...
Harper's still a few weeks away from returning, so no decision has to be made just yet.
• Check out what Chipper Jones said about Zimmerman and Rendon on the MLB Network Radio show Power Alley this morning:
• We talked about the latest comments from Matt Williams on his plans for when Bryce Harper returns on last night's edition of Nats Nightly: