Before second game of three with the St. Louis Cardinals in D.C., Matt Williams laid out the Washington Nationals' plan for rehabbing infielder Anthony Rendon, who played five innings in Viera, Florida today as he works his way back from an MCL sprain in his left knee.
"He played five [innings]," Williams said. "He was 0 for 1 with a couple of walks, which is a good sign. Seeing a lot of pitches. No issues. So the plan is for him to fly here in the morning, get a full workout with us tomorrow and then head off to Harrisburg for his rehab assignment starting on Friday."
"That's the plan anyway," Williams continued. "We'll adjust accordingly if he feels anything, but that's what we're looking at."
Harrisburg is, of course, the Nationals' Double-A Eastern League affiliate, where Rendon played 21 games in 2012 as he worked his way back from a high ankle sprain and 33 games in 2013 before he was moved up to Triple-A and then the majors.
Asked if there was any set plan for how long the rehab stint would last, Williams provided some detail, though a lot will depend on how Rendon feels.
"He's got to get to nine innings for sure," the second-year skipper said. "So, five innings today, day off, we'll start that process again and go five [innings] and seven in back-to-back games and then another day off and then go seven, nine and see where he's at. His calendar stretches beyond that, but we'll see. As long as he feels good, that's all we're concerned about."
"If he gets all those games under his belt then he's going to have upwards of 25 at bats, 30 at bats, total. So, you'd expect that to be halfway-ish through Spring Training, that scenario, where he'd be feeling pretty good about his swing anyway. So we'll see."
Williams said the plan was for Rendon to focus mainly on playing third base, though he did allow that with injuries and roster needs at the major league level there was always the possibility he might play second again.
Yunel Escobar was acquired this winter to play second base, but has been over at third with Rendon out.
Playing third, as Williams explained yesterday, will minimize the risk of an injury from a player sliding into him at the base, but both Rendon and Escobar will work out at both positions as the Nationals prepare for the 24-year-old infielder's eventual return.
What's important now is making sure the knee is healthy and he's ready to return.
"When he's ready to go and ready to play at this level anyway," Williams said, "there shouldn't be any concern about his knee. It will be 100%."
The challenge that lies ahead for Rendon, the former major league third baseman explained, is that he won't have as much time to get ready as he would have had with an entire run through Spring Training.
"They don't have the six weeks, roughly," Williams said, referring to not only Rendon, but also Denard Span and Jayson Werth, who just returned from their own DL stints. "There's no reason that we wouldn't want them playing here if they're physically capable. So, that is the measuring stick, if you will.
"When they're physically okay to do that, we want them playing here. All three of those guys give us opportunities beyond base hits. Last night Denard with his speed. Jayson having the ability to get on base regardless whether he's swinging well or not, he's got the ability to walk, he's a good baserunner, he's a good presence in the lineup. The same would be true for Anthony.
"They're unique in that they offer so many things to us beyond how many hits they get."
"It may seem a little rushed, if you will," Williams said, "but as long as they're physically able to get out there and there is no issue with that, then they're going to be here playing for us."
In his second major league campaign last season, Rendon put up a .287/.351/.473 line, 39 doubles, six triples and 21 HRs in 153 games and 683 plate appearances in a +6.5 fWAR campaign.