- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Little by little, the Washington Nationals lineup is getting healthy. In fact, it could be back to full strength sooner rather than later.

Manager Matt Williams said third baseman Anthony Rendon played three innings in extended spring training in Viera, Florida, on Tuesday and is expected to play five innings Wednesday. A day off will follow and, barring any setbacks, Rendon will then begin a minor league rehabilitation assignment Friday. Single-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg, which both have home games Friday night, are Rendon’s most likely destinations.

The 24-year-old began the season on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee. He had not participated in a game of any kind until Tuesday. The third baseman told Williams on Monday night that he is no longer feeling pain in his knee, though it does still get stiff at times.

“The pain has subsided, so that’s a real good sign, that that’s not an issue,” Williams said. “And then beyond that, it’s getting in shape, because anything that has to do with your legs and not being able to do much, then you’re not in baseball shape. So we want to make sure that he’s in shape, that his legs are underneath him. So beyond the pain, that’s probably the biggest thing. His swing will come, the timing will come, all of that. But we don’t want him getting out there too quickly and not being in baseball shape, and ready to go.”

Williams said Rendon played third base in his game Tuesday and got a couple of at-bats. He will stay at third base in the near future because it is less demanding on his knee, but he could also spend time at second base as his rehabilitation process moves along.

Rendon won a Silver Slugger Award at third base last season, hitting .287 with 21 home runs and 83 RBI. He also led the National League with 111 runs.

The Nationals entered this season with several key players on the disabled list, but two rejoined the team last week. Left fielder Jayson Werth returned to the starting lineup Monday in Boston, and Denard Span rejoined the team for Sunday’s series finale against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Span and Werth played only three minor league games apiece before returning to Washington, but Williams said Rendon’s rehabilitation stint could be more lengthy.

“You never go as hard first to third in practice as you will in a game, so that’s part of the process,” Williams said. “But we also have to be mindful that he’s still early in that process. So it could be a little bit different. It could be a little bit longer than those other guys, but it’s important for him to be in shape when he gets here and ready to play, because he’s one of those guys that will play just about every day.”

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