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Howie Kendrick has a big decision to make: Will he return to play in 2021? Will it be with the Nationals?

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“If this did end up being my last year, I can tell you I really don’t have any regrets.” - Howie Kendrick on Friday

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“This year was going to be my last year before COVID to be honest with you,” 36-year-old, 15-year veteran Howie Kendrick told reporters on Friday afternoon, when he talked about his 2020 campaign, which ended early when a hamstring injury he’d been dealing with since mid-August finally forced him to the Injured List earlier this month.

Kendrick put up a .275/.320/.385 line, four doubles, and two home runs in an even 100 plate appearances this season, but he was limited (more so than usual), playing in empty parks all year, and he was away from his family, including his sons, mainstays in the Nats’ clubhouse in previous seasons, whose own thoughts on what he should do going forward will play an important role in his decision about whether he’ll play in 2021.

So, though it might have been his last season if it was a normal one, Kendrick isn’t sure he wants this campaign to be his last. There is a $6.5M mutual option (or a $2.25M buyout) in the 1-year/$6.25M free agent deal he signed this past winter.

“I was thinking about retiring after this year,” he said in a Zoom call from Nationals Park.

“But because of COVID it kind of raised the question of like, ‘Man, do you want go out like this? Do you want 2020 to be any worse?’”

His manager, Davey Martinez, played 16 seasons in the majors between 1986-2001, and he retired at 36, so he understands what Kendrick is going through, as he tries to decide if he will do it all again.

“For me, I didn’t want to stop,” Martinez said this week. “Obviously I was hoping to push the envelope and try to play till I was 40. I fell a little bit short.”

“He’s got big decisions to make. But I know with Howie, family is always first with him.”

“To think that you would end on a year like this, it is a tough one,” Kendrick said on Friday.

“Like I said, I haven’t made any decision about what I was going to do yet, but I want to get healthy first and like I said, talk with my family and then decide.

“Because right now, being hurt, I wasn’t too happy about finishing this way, and we’ll see what happens.

“I don’t want to say yes and I don’t want to say no, because right now I really don’t have an answer, but all the guys on the team tell me four more years.”

But Kendrick was clear that without COVID and without the injury, which ended his season prematurely, this would have been it.

“Definitely,” he said.

“If this was a regular season and I got to play the full season, that would been a definite like, ‘Yes, I’m out.’ But right now I’m kind of sitting in-between and I’m not 100%.

“I did see one of my friends retire, announce his retirement, Alex Gordon. Great player.

“Great career. I played with him in the Fall League, and then I played against him in the minor leagues a little bit and played against him in the major leagues a lot.

“And when you see guys that came up right around the time that you did that are retired or already gone, and you look at the free agent list and there’s only one guy that has more time than you, you know you’ve been around a long time. But that also says a lot about the way you went about the game and the work that you put in, and if this did end up being my last year, I can tell you I really don’t have any regrets.”