The Washington Nationals placed Anthony Rendon on the disabled list with a left quadriceps strain on Friday. This will be Rendon's second trip to the disabled list and third listing on the injury report in 2015. He dealt with an MCL sprain in March that ended up costing him more than a month to begin the year. Rendon strained his oblique while rehabbing in May, costing him a few more weeks.
While the ideal scenario would be for Rendon (and Jayson Werth... and Ryan Zimmerman) to be 100% and healthy, the timing of this most recent trip to the disabled list could have been a lot worse. Let's examine a few of the things that the Nats have going in their favor that may help them overcome the loss of one of their rising stars for the next few weeks.
The schedule lines up fairly nicely for the Nats in the next few weeks. They start a three game series with the worst team in baseball on Friday night. After that, they'll head to Atlanta to face a 35-38 Braves team that the Nats just swept in D.C. Within the next fifteen games, the Nats will also face a 34-37 Reds team that may start trading off some pieces soon. They do also have a three game series lined up against the World Series champion Giants and the Battle of the Beltways with the Orioles before the All Star Break.
All told, the Nats opponents in their next fifteen games are 173-191 (.475) so far this season. Even removing the outlying Phillies (26-48) from the equation, their next four opponents are basically .500 teams. It's not like they're about to go through the roughest part of their schedule. They won't even face their (current) closest competitor in the division either. In fact, that closest competitor (the Mets) will have a difficult portion of their schedule in the coming weeks, as they'll start July by facing the Cubs, Dodgers, and Giants.
The All Star Break
Assuming that the Nats backdated Rendon's placement on the DL, he should be eligible to return on July 9. The All Star Break runs from July 13-16 this season, so if the Nats don't rush him back immediately when he's eligible, they'll be able to give him an extra week and only lose three more games worth of having Rendon on the field. Even if they do bring him back the weekend before the All Star Break for the series with the Orioles, he'll have an opportunity to test his legs over the weekend and take a few days off afterwards to recover and get ready for the second half.
The team and rotation are gelling right now
The Nats have won six straight. The Mets have lost seven of eight games. Over the past week, the Nats have gone from being 1.5 games behind the Mets to having a 3.5 game lead in the division. This does leave the club with a little more margin for error as we near the start of the second half.
Danny Espinosa and Yunel Escobar have continued their strong play over the past few weeks. Ian Desmond showed some signs of life this week against the Braves. Clint Robinson has looked solid with his opportunity to play a bit more often over the past week or so as well.
Would a healthy Rendon be better than any of these players? Absolutely. However, a couple of members of the Nats bench have stepped up enough so that they can probably afford to be cautious with Rendon's injury and give him a couple of weeks to heal up. Listing him as day to day and trying to run him back out there too quickly could further aggravate the injury.
Finally, the rotation is healthy again and rolling right now. Doug Fister, Gio Gonzalez, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Gio Gonzalez have combined for 41.1 consecutive scoreless innings heading into Friday's game, so the offense hasn't needed to be spectacular lately. The club doesn't lose anything defensively (actually, it improves) by moving Espinosa back to second base and having Clint Robinson or Tyler Moore play at first base. The run prevention is unlikely to be affected much by Rendon hitting the disabled list, so as long as the rotation keeps pitching well (not this well, but well), the Nats shouldn't be hurt too badly by Rendon's loss in the batting order.
Obviously, the ideal situation would be for Rendon to be healthy and 100%. That simply isn't the case right now, though. The Nats seem to be in good shape to absorb this injury and overcome it for the next three weeks. Hopefully the Nats handle this injury with extreme prudence. Placing him on the disabled list Friday rather than trying to let him play through the injury is the first step. Get well soon, Ant!