Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo talked to reporters before Tuesday night’s matchup against the St. Louis Cardinals about the decision, made earlier in the day, to place third baseman Anthony Rendon on the 10-Day Injured List, retroactive to April 27th, with the left elbow contusion which had kept the 28-year-old infielder out of action in all but one game since April 20th.
They hesitated to put Rendon on the IL, the GM explained, because they hoped the corner infielder might be able to get back in the lineup sooner than he was able to.
“If Anthony Rendon is going to be ready in 4-5 days, rather than put him on the 10-Day [IL], I’d rather play short for 3-4-5 days than lose Rendon for an extra five days,” Rizzo explained.
“So I think that went into the decision until we felt that it was time to give this some significant time ... we’ll see where he’s at on May 7th when he can return and hopefully he’ll be ready to come back.”
Rendon joined both Trea Turner and Ryan Zimmerman on the IL, placing pressure on the players who are available at the moment, as manager Davey Martinez explained when he spoke after the second straight loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday night.
“We’ve got a couple young hitters, and they’re playing well, they really are. Our guys that we typically count on on the bench are starting, and they’re doing well,” Martinez said, but their expected everyday regulars at first base, short, and third base, are currently unavailable.
“They’re definitely key pieces of the ballclub,” 20-year-old outfielder Victor Robles said after he went 1 for 4 with a home run in what ended up being a 6-3 loss in the second game of four with the Cards.
“We definitely miss them, but all we can do is keep working hard and doing our work and producing out there as much as we can and as long as we keep doing that, we’ll be okay and help the team win.”
Robles was just 2 for 18 (.111/.158/.278) in the first four games of the current homestand heading into Tuesday night’s game, and he hit a home run off righty Adam Wainwright, taking the veteran’s curveball for a ride, after he’d lined out the first time up against the pitcher.
“All I did was try to have patience up there,” Robles said when asked about the at bat against Wainwright in which he homered.
“The last few games I’ve felt like I’ve been a little bit too rushed out there and just swinging at pitches out of the zone a little bit, but I worked with [Kevin] Long, the hitting coach, and just worked on patience, patience, and that’s all I did and it paid off.”
Robles finished the night with a .255/.301/.481 line, seven doubles, one triple, five homers, five walks, and 34 strikeouts in 114 plate appearances thus far in his rookie campaign.
“He’s playing well,” Martinez said of Robles.
“They all are,” the second-year skipper added. “He hit the first ball 110 miles an hour, so just keep playing, like I told these guys, ‘Hey, keep playing, put a lot of effort, a lot of energy.’ The dugout today was — they were fired up, it was good, so we’ve just got to keep going.
“We’re going to May 1st, so let’s start off May with a bang.”
“We have to find ways to maximize our offensive chances and our offensive efficiency has to be even sharper now with three of our everyday bats out of the lineup and really two of the most dynamic players in the National League out with Turner and Rendon,” Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday.
“And runs are scarce. Opportunities have to be embraced and they have to be maximized and we have to play much closer to perfect baseball than we have in the past when you can out-bang the other team and out-thump them and just rely on your big horses. So you’ve got to play better, we’ve got to play better, cleaner games. We have to maximize our chances and when we have runners on base, guys on third, less than two outs, you have to be really efficient and score those runs, because the odds are your chances are lessened because you don’t have three of your good bats in the lineup and you’re relying on bench players to be every day guys.”
Rizzo was asked when it stops being “still early” and starts being a serious issue that things haven’t clicked just yet. When will he know what he has in this year’s team?
“I think that you know who you are when you have your full complement of players amassed and in the lineup and performing at the same time,” Rizzo explained.
“We came out of Spring Training with our full complement of players, no injuries,” he added, “... our bullpen struggled, they weren’t prepared coming out of Spring Training to hit the ground running at the onset of the season, and then players slowly start breaking down and getting hurt. We knew it was a big injury when Trea [Turner] broke his finger and he was going to be out for that length of time because he’s one of the most dynamic two-way players in all of baseball, and then when Rendon goes down and Zim goes down in the same week it’s difficult, so I think you really have to assess your team when you’re playing at full strength and see what you’ve got, and you ask when it’s early? It’s never early.
“It’s always — you know games in April count as much as games in September, but unlike in football when you say you lose three games in a row and you jump off the bandwagon, one month of the season is 1/6 of the season, and in football obviously every game is much more vital.
“We’re looking to get back on track, and like I said last week, we’ve got to tread water until we get our horses back and stay in this race and stay within the front teams, in the lead, and when we get our complement, we’ve got to get it and we’ve got to roll with it.”
“They are who they are when you get a bigger sample size of the actual team that’s going to be on the field that you want on the field,” Rizzo continued.
“I think we’ll know a lot more about ourselves when Trea comes back, and Anthony comes back, and Zim gets back in the lineup, and then Howie [Kendrick] and Matt Adams are bench players with [Wilmer] Difo and that type of thing...”
It’s never early.