It’s been less than a week since Anthony Rendon got the word from Double-A Harrisburg manager Matt LeCroy that he was heading to the major leagues. And in that time, the Nationals’ top third base prospect has done nothing to change the already high opinion of him within the organization.
They still think incredibly highly of him, and have plans for him to be a part of their long-term future. They also still anticipate sending him back to the minor leagues when Ryan Zimmerman’s left hamstring is no longer hampering him, which could be as early as next Friday.
But on Friday night, for the second straight day, manager Davey Johnson wrote out a lineup that did not include Rendon’s name at third base in place of the injured Zimmerman. For the second straight day it had Steve Lombardozzi there.
“I really like Anthony,” Johnson said Friday, asked about the rookie’s absence from the lineup. “Anthony knows that.”
When the Nationals announced Rendon’s promotion to the major leagues last weekend, Johnson was adamant that Rendon would be in the lineup if he was here. A premium prospect, the Nationals don’t want to stunt his development by not giving him regular playing time, whatever level he’s at.
“He’s going to play every day somewhere,” general manager Mike Rizzo said of Rendon on Thursday. “If he’s here in the big leagues, he’s going to play every day in the big leagues.”
So why, then, leave him out of the lineup two nights in a row?
Allow Johnson to explain.
“Lombo’s been playing good,” Johnson said. “It’s a little more difficult when I’m looking for somebody in the lineup to help set the table and (Rendon’s) not in that category. Nothing against his ability, but I’m trying to create a lineup that can kind of feed off itself. I’m going day-by-day, but I don’t like to change a winner.
“Nothing against Anthony Rendon. He’s a heck of a player. He’s going to have a heck of a career. But we’re in the here and now. And I’m worried about 25 guys. That outweighs the need to play a youngster.”
In his brief stint — and against major league pitchers for the first time outside of spring training — Rendon has two hits in 15 at-bats with five strikeouts.
With Zimmerman unable to come off the disabled list until next Friday (and he’s been running as well as taking batting practice in the cage), it will be interesting to see how much longer Johnson chooses to run out this particular lineup while Rendon sits idle.