Apr 9, 2014, 10:42 AM EDT
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.”
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