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Rendon impresses at plate, in field

Apr 9, 2014, 10:42 AM EDT

AP AP

Though he had seen occasional action at third base from time to time, Anthony Rendon had made the mental switch to second base last summer, once he arrived in Washington and found himself with an opportunity to play every day at an unfamiliar position. His defensive work has paid dividends; he has become a quality second baseman in a short amount of time.

But the Nationals have known all along Rendon would be their backup plan at third base, especially if anything happened to Ryan Zimmerman. So the 23-year-old found himself back at the hot corner Sunday afternoon and again Tuesday night, trying to get comfortable playing his old position again.

I guess it works the other way around a little bit easier, because I came from third base,” he said. “It’s still a little bit of an adjustment. But that’s what the game of baseball is, making adjustments.”

Rendon appeared to adjust just fine Tuesday night. He made a spectacular play in the top of the seventh, charging in to field Reed Johnson’s bunt barehanded and in one motion fire a perfect strike to first base for a key out in what became the Nationals’ 5-0 victory over the Marlins.

Though Rendon’s experience in college and the minors making that play surely helped, so did the Nationals’ pregame scouting report, which noted that Johnson was a threat to bunt. (Even if manager Matt Williams called an audible during that very at-bat.)

“It was in the back of my mind,” Rendon said. “We went over the scouting report before the game. Funny story, two pitches before that, Williams was like: ‘Hey, scoot back, he’s going to swing.’ So I’m 3-4 steps behind [third base]. And, whoop, he lays one down.”

No worries, Rendon still was able to charge in and make the play, helping quash a potential Miami rally.

Of course, he also made a couple of Nationals rallies possible with a pair of two-out, run-scoring hits. Rendon wound up driving in three runs, giving him eight RBI for the season (one behind team leader Adam LaRoche) to go along with a .407 batting average.

Zimmerman hopes to be back at third base tonight, having decided to alter his throwing motion in an attempt to play through shoulder pain. So Rendon most likely will return to second base for the time being.

But Williams sleeps much better at night knowing he has a more-than-capable third baseman ready and available if needed again.

“It’s great,” the manager said. “We don’t want Ryan down. But if something like this does happen and he has to be out for a couple of days, then we have not only Anthony, but we have Danny (Espinosa) that can play Gold Glove defense [at second base]. And that’s one of the reasons that both of them are on our team. Because if something does happen like this, we can put guys in different spots and they perform. That’s a great luxury to have.”

  1. sunshinebobby - Apr 9, 2014 at 10:59 AM

    The minute that Rendon made that nifty one-handed sidearm ACCURATE throw on that bunt last night, the Zim-to-first-base movement became legitimate. If Espi ever hits .230 at second base, Zim becomes a part-time third baseman. And probably the most expensive pinch-hitter in baseball.

    • pdowdy83 - Apr 9, 2014 at 11:19 AM

      Zim makes throws like that without problems so I’m not sure that is a completely fair assessment. Let’s give the guy a chance with the adjustments he made the last few days before we turn him into a bench player.

    • ehay2k - Apr 9, 2014 at 11:22 AM

      I believe that Zim can still play 3rd. BUT, If Rendon turns out to be a better 3b, in terms of defense and durability, then it makes sense to move Zim to where his defense is not a hindrance and his bat is still in play. 1b seems to be that place. It’s not a demotion, except perhaps in Zim’s eyes.

    • Danny - Apr 9, 2014 at 11:25 AM

      You do realize that this team needs LaRoche, Zimmerman, and Rendons Nats to be in the lineup. Taking Zim out gives more at bats to Espy.. Big drop off in production. We just have to hope Zim can figure out his throwing.

    • adcwonk - Apr 9, 2014 at 12:01 PM

      ALR leads the team in walks, runs scored, OBP, RBI’s, walks, SLG

      I wouldn’t be so fast to put him on the bench to make room for RZ.

  2. tcostant - Apr 9, 2014 at 11:22 AM

    I was impressed with the play. Interestingly, when I watched the reply I’m pretty sure that ball would have went foul if not touched. It had a major curve to it – I did not think that in real time. Wound if anyone else noticed that. It was a great play!

  3. Exposremains - Apr 9, 2014 at 11:33 AM

    The front office and manager knows Zim is done at 3rd base..this has been going on for years and nothing has change. They’re not that blind. The problem is like Mark said the other day, there’s not much they can do about it while Laroche is on the team. It will be hard to trade Laroche and who says that Espinosa will be any good over a long period. So for now, Williams goes with the party line and says generic stuff like Zim is our 3rd baseman and next time a routine ground ball goes to him , everybody will close thier eyes and get a little tense.

  4. masterfishkeeper - Apr 9, 2014 at 11:35 AM

    Marlins are going to start Brad Hand, a lefthander, tonight as an emergency replacement for Turner. Wonder if we’ll see Zim at first?

    • Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 9, 2014 at 11:48 AM

      Makes you wonder if Bryce goes down to the 6th/7th spot… also if Span moves out of the lead off…

    • Eric - Apr 9, 2014 at 12:01 PM

      Is he exceptional? Does he have good stamina? If the answer to either of those things is “no,” My guess is LaRoche will be at first regardless of whether or not Zim is able to go.

    • realdealnats - Apr 9, 2014 at 1:11 PM

      I suspect they will leave ALR in at 1B since he is seeing the ball well. And they probably want to test Zim’s throwing motion at 3B. Keep it Win/Win as long as possible with the choices.

    • tcostant - Apr 9, 2014 at 1:33 PM

      If a LH is going tonight Zimm has to play 1B.

      • therealjohnc - Apr 9, 2014 at 2:49 PM

        Adam LaRoche vs. LHP in 2014: 2-5, one BB, one K.
        Danny Espinosa vs. LHP in 2014: 0-7, no BB, two K’s, generally looked awful.

        And more particularly: ALR career versus Brad Hand: 2-3 with a HR and a BB.

        No, Zim is NOT going to play 1b tonight. The best alignment is still ALR, Rendon, Desmond and Zim in the infield.

  5. zmunchkin - Apr 9, 2014 at 11:48 AM

    I don’t think there was ever much doubt that Rendon could play 3rd. And I suspect that is one of the reasons that there was never much doubt that Espi would be the utility infielder.

    But I think it is still too early to be talking about RZ moving to first for the rest of his career. That is why they worked on changing his throwing motion so he always (really almost always) uses that sidearm motion that has never been a problem. If he can do that and it minimizes the pain, and the throwing problems, I suspect that you will see him as an occasional first baseman and probably the DH in AL parks.

    RZ’s bat is very good for 3rd. But it is average, at best, for 1b.

  6. Doc - Apr 9, 2014 at 11:48 AM

    I was wrong about ARen. I’ve often said that he would win a batting title in a few years.

    Tony could win it this year!

    Over time NIs we’ll probably be arguing who was the better Nats’ draft pick—Rendon or Harper!!

    • natinalsgo - Apr 9, 2014 at 1:57 PM

      Great post Doc and that debate hopefully will be a positive debate!

  7. Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 9, 2014 at 12:02 PM

    WaPo with a good post on Stadium naming rights.

    • zmunchkin - Apr 9, 2014 at 12:11 PM

      I still remember the effort by the DC City Council in the last months of the final season at RFK to rename the field at RFK (they could not rename the stadium) to:

      Taxation Without Representation Field at Robert F Kennedy Memorial Stadium

      A real mouthful, but it sent a message they wanted to publicize since all broadcasts are required to use the complete name at least once (and maybe more).

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 9, 2014 at 12:24 PM

        Under Armour is the perfect partner for the Nats for naming rights. It’s a perfect match and Under Armour is buying buildings in DC to expand their brand.

  8. sjm308 - Apr 9, 2014 at 12:32 PM

    Ghost,
    Can you post that link?
    It’s probably mentioned but who gets that money?

  9. Section 222 - Apr 9, 2014 at 12:40 PM

    In Quick Pitch last night,/this morning, MLB Network had a cool split screen comparing Rendon’s play last night and a Zimmerman play. Looked very similar although Rendon’s throw got to1B a split second earlier. He threw a bullet.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 9, 2014 at 2:02 PM

      That was a nice video they ran. I wrote about that this morning also. Agree on Anthony’s throw but what did you think of the cutaway to Zimmerman in the dugout turning his head and chewing his gum.

  10. naterialguy - Apr 9, 2014 at 12:55 PM

    I’ve always the discovery channel would be good to buy the naming rights.
    Discovery park sounds good to me

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 9, 2014 at 2:05 PM

      That’s another good one NaterialGuy. I’m probably not letting any cat out of the bag but Exxon Mobil wanted the naming rights and Mister Mr. Lerner didn’t think they were the right fit. I think they would be a fit now. I think the issue then was oil prices were skyrocketing and gas was over $4 a gallon.

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