In discussing the plans for Anthony Rendon's rehab last week, Washington Nationals' manager Matt Williams talked to reporters about why the 24-year-old infielder was likely to spend more time at third as he worked his way back from an MCL sprain.
"He may play both [second and third]," Williams said. "Third is a little less demanding right now. So as he gets into the swing of it, he may get over to second base as well, but for right now it's going to be third just to make sure that we can try to monitor it as much as possible. Doesn't have to move as much, there's no real threat of a guy sliding in there a lot, on double play balls things of that nature."
Rendon played third base for the Harrisburg Senators on Friday, and did make a start at second base on Saturday night before a day off on Sunday. He was 2 for 4 with a double and a walk at the plate over the weekend.
While Rendon has been working his way back from the injury he suffered in Spring Training, Yunel Escobar, who was acquired to play second, has shifted to third, with Dan Uggla and Danny Espinosa splitting time at second.
In discussing the Nationals' plans for the infield with Rendon out, Nats' GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier in late March that the Nats preferred keeping Uggla and Espinosa at second with Escobar, who has played shortstop throughout most of his career, remaining on the left side of the infield.
According to a report from CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman on Sunday, the Nationals are happy with what Escobar's done over at third, and are at least considering keeping him there and having Rendon shift back to second where he played upon being called up in 2013 and at times in 2014.
As Heyman wrote, "... word from people close to the situation is that the Nationals may still decide to have Escobar to play mostly or only third even after Rendon returns, and instead move Rendon to second."
Rizzo and Williams both told the CBS reporter that no decision had been made as of yet:
"They can both play both very well," Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said via text. "Not sure how it shakes out yet."
Manager Matt Williams said, "We haven't made that decision yet."
"Escobar is also thought to feel more comfortable at third," Heyman noted, "though he has accepted either position."
Which defensive alignment is best for the Nationals?
Rendon was good for 12 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) at third last season, third among qualified NL third baseman behind only David Wright (13 DRS) and Nolan Arenado (16 DRS) with a 4.2 UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) which was good for third in the NL as well, behind Arenado (6.0) and the Reds' Todd Frazier (6.5).
Escobar struggled defensively at short last season, but the Nationals thought he would transition to second well before the injury to Rendon occurred.
He moved over to the left side of the infield when Rendon went down, and he's played solid defense at third thus far.
Should Escobar shift over to second when Rendon returns, or since Rendon's been fine defensively at both positions will the Nationals leave Escobar where he's more comfortable?
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