VIERA, Fla. — It had been 270 days since Anthony Rendon was part of an organized, nine-inning baseball game when he stepped onto the field at Space Coast Stadium Friday afternoon. It had been even longer since Rendon was a regular two-way player, dealing with a strain in the back of his shoulder throughout his final season at Rice University that forced him primarily to the designated hitter role.
Under a brilliant Florida sun, Rendon walked out to third base and, even if it was just against Georgetown University in an exhibition game, officially began his professional career.
“Oh, amazing,” Rendon said. “I don’t even know how to put it.”
Rendon called the length of time he’d spent away from full games “pretty crazy,” and while it didn’t appear to be anything but a smooth transition back into the rhythm of things for the third baseman who has coaches swooning over his swing, he said it was a little tougher than it appeared.
“It felt kind of strange to be out there,” he said. “New scenery, especially when you have the sun beaming on the bleachers, it was hard to see. It was different, but I got adjusted pretty quick.”
Rendon had two at-bats Friday, striking out on five pitches in his first at-bat, though two appeared borderline calls toward the outside, and flew out to center in his second at-bat. Rendon said he agreed that the two called strikes in his first at-bat seemed outside to him but he hadn’t gone back to check the tape and smiled when addressing it, knowing there wasn’t much he could do about it anyway.
“It’s going to take time,” Rendon said. “(My swing) feels good, I just have to get my timing back. It’s been nine months since I’ve seen live pitching, so it’s going to take time. I’m just trying to do my thing.”
Rendon will get another chance to notch his first professional hit when he travels with the team to Kissimmee on Saturday to face Livan Hernandez and the Astros. Rendon is slated to get some time at third base after Mark Teahen starts there. Carlos Riverio is also expected to see some time there on Saturday.
Chances are whenever he does get in the game the pitching he’ll see then will be up a level from what he faced on Friday. In a way, though, Rendon felt it was good for him to start his career with the Nationals by facing pitching not unlike the kind he’d faced for three years at Rice.
“It’s definitely a good thing,” he said. “It’s good to just ease into it instead of coming out and somebody’s throwing like 98 (mph), you know? It was a good thing, a good transition. It wasn’t a big jump, it was good to just get in there.
“We’ll see how it goes tomorrow.”