- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 18, 2014

MIAMI — When asked if he has a few minutes to chat, Anthony Rendon looks up from his tablet and sits up in his chair.

“About what?” he asks.

“Your season,” a reporter answers.

Rendon shakes his head and offers to talk about something else. Another figure on the team, for example, or the team’s overall performance. So the interview continues, on another topic for another story.

He just has no interest in talking about himself.

“It makes me uncomfortable,” he says. “It’s awkward.”

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Though Rendon tries to stay out of the spotlight, his performance on the field has made that impossible. Entering Thursday night’s series-opener against the Marlins, the 24-year-old was hitting .285 with 20 home runs, 85 RBI and 15 stolen bases. He led the National League with 108 runs scored and ranked fourth in wins above replacement (5.9).

In his first full major league season, Rendon might even draw votes as the NL Most Valuable Player.

“I wouldn’t be shocked if his name was brought up,” first baseman Adam LaRoche said. “It’s tough to win it at a young age. You’ve got to just blow the doors off of everything. But there’s no doubt he’s been our MVP.”

In the past two weeks, Rendon hit .400 with three doubles, two homers and seven RBI. He walked seven times with only eight strikeouts. He also missed a game with a stomach virus during that span.

Perhaps the most striking dimension of Rendon’s season has been his ability to score runs. Entering Thursday night’s game, he had touched the plate more times this year than anyone besides Mike Trout and more than all but two players in Nationals history: Alfonso Soriano in 2006 (119 runs) and Ryan Zimmerman in 2009 (110).

Part of Rendon’s scoring stems from the players hitting behind him. Part of it stems from hitting No. 2 in the lineup, as he does on most days. But manager Matt Williams put it simply: You have to be on base to score.

“He has a lot of ways to get on base,” Williams said. “He’s got a good knowledge of the strike zone. He hits a lot of doubles. He can steal second base, he’s got that ability. So he can put himself in scoring position a lot.”

Williams said Rendon has found comfort in the No. 2 spot in the lineup. He has also used his speed to his advantage on the base paths, an aspect of his game that is often overlooked.

“He’s outstanding at going first to third, tagging on balls, finding ways to get into scoring position,” LaRoche said. “Not only is he getting on, but he’s getting in scoring position. And he’s a lot faster than guys think he is. So when he’s on second and you get a base hit, chances are he’s scoring.”

Beyond the runs and the stats and the batting average, there is confidence that comes with being an everyday major league player. After being drafted sixth overall in 2011, Rendon made his major league debut in April of last season. He played 98 games for Washington but did not spend a full season there.

This season, however, Rendon was a starter in the infield from Opening Day. He has played in 146 of Washington’s 151 games. Those games and at-bats have led to experience, and that experience has led confidence at the plate, confidence in his approach and a steady demeanor, regardless of performance.

“He’s just mature beyond his years,” LaRoche said. “He doesn’t need any of the spotlight. He doesn’t want any of the spotlight. He wants to go out there, do his job and help us win.”

As the Nationals near the postseason and Zimmerman returns from the disabled list, Rendon’s role might change. He might switch from third base, his natural position and current spot, to second base, a position he learned to play on the fly last year but has since embraced.

Regardless of his situation or role, Rendon’s mentality will not change. He will likely continue to get on base, and continue to score runs.

And he definitely won’t want to talk about it.

• Tom Schad can be reached at tschad@washingtontimes.com.

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