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Washington Nationals infielder Anthony Rendon suffers another setback

Anthony Rendon sprained his MCL on March 9, an injury that was expected to keep him out for a few days. Over seven weeks later, Rendon finally started a rehab assignment. Unfortunately, he now finds himself battling a different nagging injury.

The Anthony Rendon injury situation keeps getting more and more frustrating.
The Anthony Rendon injury situation keeps getting more and more frustrating.
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Anthony Rendon was the breakout star of the 2014 season for the Washington Nationals.  Rendon hit .287/.351/.473 last season as he not only led the team with 6.5 fWAR, but finished tied for fourth among position players in all of baseball (tied with Josh Donaldson among third basemen).  Just 24 years old, the sky appear(s/ed) to be the limit for Rendon.  Unfortunately, at this point, Nats fans are left scratching their heads and wondering what's going on.

Rendon injured his knee making this play at third base on March 9.

Two days later, it was reported that Rendon would miss a few days with some minor swelling on his knee.  Here's Matt Williams at the time...

"It's purely precautionary. He worked through his day yesterday but was a little bit sore," manager Matt Williams said. "It's on the inside of his knee. He took a pretty hard dive out there on the infield. The infield is hard. There is no issue other than it's bruised. He will be good to go in a day or so."

Not serious.... Move on.  There's nothing to see here....

Then again, a few days later, it was announced that it was more than just a bruise.  Rendon had a sprained MCL.  He ended up getting opinions from three doctors, including famed surgeon (more for his work on pitchers' elbows) Dr. James Andrews.  All three of them agreed that Rendon had a Grade 1 MCL sprain, which generally requires four to eight weeks of healing time.  This is a far cry from the original day to day diagnosis...

On April 24, nearly seven weeks after Rendon was proclaimed day to day, he began a rehab assignment at Harrisburg.  This does fit within the timetable of the (updated) diagnosis of an MCL sprain.  It's near the back end of his projected return, but it's within eight weeks.  Maybe we shouldn't be freaking out too much about whether Rendon is going to come back and help a lineup that has struggled without one of their top young stars.  It's not like he's had a setback or anything....

Rendon played third base for Harrisburg on April 24 and looked fine.  He suited up and played second base on April 25.  After a scheduled day off, Rendon was unable to go on April 27 with tightness in his side.  He'd go on to miss four days with the (new) injury.  He returned to the lineup Friday after those four days off, again at second base.  He was unable to go on Saturday, once again with tightness in his side.  Sunday was expected to be another off day for Rendon, but reports are that they're going to see if he's ready to play today.

I don't want to speculate, since I have no real knowledge of what's going on.  I'm not a doctor.  I haven't seen or spoken to Rendon.  I will say that when I hear a player is unavailable with "tightness in his side," I start to hope that a team is being overly cautious.  The main injury that my brain associates with "tightness in a player's side" is an oblique strain, which typically takes six to eight weeks to heal.  Given how his injury in March was a bit... underplayed, the Rendon situation has a lot of Nats fans minds wandering towards the worst case scenarios.

For now, there's nothing we can do.  Let's hope that they're just being overly cautious with Rendon and would prefer to bring him back slowly to make sure that he isn't really creating a new injury.  Many of us in the Nats fanbase watched Ryan Zimmerman battle his throwing issues (and pain in his shoulder) for years at third base.  When a player alters his throwing motion, he may be putting more (or different) stress on certain parts of his body than he's used to.

For Zimmerman, it was his shoulder.  This led to a lot of sidearm throws and a half dozen changes to his mechanics as he threw the ball across the diamond.  For Rendon, it's possible that he just doesn't feel completely comfortable pushing off of his left leg, so he's putting less pressure on his legs and more on his torso/core.  Where's that latest injury again?

It's entirely possible that it's just soreness because he's using his muscles around that part of his body differently to compensate for his knee trouble.  When you use muscles differently than you ordinarily do, some general soreness is to be expected for the next day or two.  If the training staff is noticing that he's altered his throwing mechanics or doesn't feel comfortable pushing off of his legs to make his throws, it would be better if they found something that worked now before he actually does create a new longer term injury issue.

Move to second base/Moving back and forth

Just stop it already!  Anthony Rendon emerged as one of the top third basemen in baseball last season.  Rendon is one of the two position players that the Nats are building their franchise around, not Yunel Escobar.  Escobar may feel more comfortable on the left side of the infield, but the franchise should be considerably more concerned with where Anthony Rendon feels most comfortable.

While Rendon's knee injury did occur with him playing third base, third base appears to pose less of an injury risk for him moving forward.  Let's remember that he's coming off of what we now know was a fairly significant knee injury......

  • Third base is more of a reactionary position, while second base requires a little more quickness and range.  Players generally have to make a lot more quick turns and require a lot more lateral movement at second base than they do at third.  Quick turns and lateral movements put more pressure on....... the knee
  • Second basemen often have to deal with players trying to break up the double play.  When a runner is bearing down on the bag at second, what part of the body tends to be exposed?  That's right... the leg
  • Second basemen tend to have to make a lot of plays up the middle.  While Rendon would have to make the occasional play to his right playing at third base, he's unlikely to have to make as many throws where he's making quick turns and throwing against his body.  Throwing against the body puts pressure on both his plant leg and an awful lot of pressure on making a quick turn with his core/torso, which is his newest nagging injury

Anthony Rendon proved last season that he was one of the very best third basemen in the game.  He did seem to have quite a bit of aptitude for playing second base in both 2013 and early in 2014 as well.  While there's a good possibility that Rendon won't be able to stay healthy if he remains at third base, given his current set of injuries, the Nats seem to be asking for trouble by trying to shift him back to second base.  He's a franchise player!  Stop messing with him!

Get well soon Ant.