It looked innocent enough. The diving play by Washington Nationals' third baseman Anthony Rendon in a March 9th game against the Atlanta Braves was not an easy one, but it was a fairly routine, though high-degree-of-difficulty effort by the 24-year-old, Nats' 2011 1st Round pick, who dove to his glove side, made the play and popped up to make a strong throw across the infield to first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who scooped it up on his backhand:
Nats' skipper Matt Williams explained that the injury was nothing "major" when Rendon was scratched from a game two days later.
"'He worked through his day yesterday, but he’s a little bit sore,'" Williams told reporters, including the Washington Post's Chelsea Janes.
The issue, Williams explained, was, "... [o]n the inside of his knee, he took a pretty hard dive out there.'"
When the knee didn't respond as expected, Rendon was sent for an MRI which revealed what the Nats described on Twitter as a "very mild sprain" of the MCL in his left knee, which he would rest for a few more days.
Rendon told reporters, including MLB.com's Bill Ladson, that he was "astonished" that he suffered an MCL sprain on the play in question:
"'It was terrible,' Rendon said. 'I dove plenty of times. I banged up my knee. When it happened, I felt it. I bruised my knee and I thought it would be sore for a couple of days and I'll play through it. It gradually got a little worse. Now, it's just a little tuck. It's still poking at me. It's not bad, though.'"
MLB.com's reporter wrote that Rendon wasn't sure when he'd return, but wanted to be ready for Opening Day.
At this point, however, Rendon has been out of action for eight days, and as Williams told MLB.com's Ladson on Monday, the Nationals were being cautious because of the sprain, "... keeping in mind that he is going to need at-bats. You do run out of time eventually."
In a WaPost article this afternoon, Chelsea Janes quoted Rendon explaining that though he wasn't sure when he will return, "... he doesn’t anticipate a lengthy absence.":
"'I know it’s not going to be like weeks, weeks, weeks and months. Well, I hope not — barring any setbacks. I think I should be out there not too long from now.'"
Rendon has, of course, dealt with injury issues before, including a shoulder issue in his final year at Rice which led to his stock dropping slightly so that he was available when the Nationals picked 6th overall.
Rendon injured his right ankle twice in college in 2009 and 2010 (while playing for Team USA) and suffered a left ankle injury early in his first pro campaign that cost him several months worth of at bats.
So, who plays third if Rendon isn't ready for Opening Day? Ryan Zimmerman? With Tyler Moore at first? Hopefully, for the Nationals, they don't have to make those decisions.