VIERA, Fla. - Just two days after taking on the Mets down in Port St. Lucie, the Nationals will head back down Interstate 95 today for yet another game at Tradition Field.
Today’s contest has a 6:10 p.m. first pitch and will be aired on MLB Network for those of you in the D.C. and Baltimore markets. The Nats players who won’t suit up tonight have a 10 a.m. workout scheduled for this morning, and I’ll be making my way over to the facility to provide some notes a little later this morning.
We learned yesterday that Anthony Rendon has had a couple of interesting interactions with Nationals manager Davey Johnson lately.
Two days ago, as the Nats were wrapping up their game in Port St. Lucie, Johnson told Rendon that when they were back in Viera, he wanted to take the 22-year-old infielder out to the half-field to work on footwork drills at second base.
In Johnson’s mind, that meant that the two would get the drills in the next day. In Rendon’s mind, well, he thought Johnson was talking about immediately after the bus pulled into Space Coast Stadium at about 5 p.m.
“I was (thinking), ‘After the game? After we get home?’ All right,” Rendon said yesterday. “I mean, I can’t say no to the dude.”
A 22-year-old calling his 70-year-old manager “the dude.” I love it. Upon returning to Space Coast Stadium, Rendon saw all his teammates packing their stuff and heading home and wondered where the heck Johnson was. He figured Johnson might have been talking about wanting to meet up the next day, but wasn’t sure.
“I was like, ‘I don’t know. This dude seemed kind of adamant about getting it in. He might want to do it after the game,’ ” Rendon said. “I walked to the coaches’ room and Randy (Knorr) walks out. And I ask, ‘Uh, is Davey in there?’ And he goes, ‘What? He’s gone.’ I was like, ‘Oh, damn.’ “
Eventually, Johnson and Rendon got on the same page, shared a laugh about the mix-up and got to work. Johnson watched how Rendon operated around the second base bag and gave a few pointers to the 2011 first-round pick, who soaked in as much information as he could.
“He did great,” Johnson said. “His footwork around the bag at second was better than I thought it was going to be. I guess that Little League at second base helped him, because he looked like he’d had more experience over there than what he showed and what he’s been doing the last six years or something.”
Later yesterday, after a rain delay of more than an hour led Johnson to take out most of the guys in his starting lineup, he scanned the dugout to decide which players should remain in the game. Rendon, who was due up an inning later, hid in one corner of the dugout, trying to avoid catching Johnson’s eye.
“I was kind of watching him walk around the dugout, telling everybody to sit down,” Rendon said. “I was just sitting quiet, making sure he might not see me. And he looks at me and goes: ‘You’ll get another at-bat.’ “
As Rendon noted, he made the most of the opportunity, crushing a two-run homer to right-center field. The bulk of Rendon’s home runs over his baseball career, he says, have been to his pull side. But lately, he’s starting to show his pop to all fields.
“For the last year or so, I guess I’ve noticed I’ve got a lot of power toward the right side,” Rendon said. “I know I finished up the season in Harrisburg, my home runs over there were to right field. So I guess my power to the right side is coming along.”
Rendon made a sharp defensive play yesterday, as well, charging a Chone Figgins bunt in the third inning and quickly whipping an overhand throw to first base to gun Figgins by a step.
The Nats are very high on Rendon, which is evident based on a quote from Johnson that I passed along after yesterday’s game. Asked what Rendon needs before he’s ready to become a major league player, Johnson replied, “Reps, and having a position for him.”
The good news for Rendon is that with Ryan Zimmerman working back slowly from offseason shoulder surgery and with an elongated spring training this year, Rendon is likely to get a good bit more playing time in Grapefruit League action than he did in 2012, when he appeared in eight games but got just 13 at-bats. He’ll be sent over to minor league camp eventually, but for now, should get a handful more games in which he can show his stuff.
That’s good news for those of us eager to watch how Rendon continues to develop, as well.