WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - It was among the most heavily debated subjects of the 2017 season in Washington: Where should Anthony Rendon bat in the Nationals lineup? And it drew a rise out of everyone who had an opinion, from those who agreed with Dusty Baker’s tendency to bat Rendon sixth to those who insisted the multi-talented third baseman should bat second.
So you won’t be surprised to learn that when asked Saturday to share his thoughts on Rendon’s place in his lineup, new manager Davey Martinez immediately smiled. Clearly, he is already aware of the debate.
Alas, if you were hoping for a firm answer from Martinez, you’re going to have to wait. He’s not ready to reveal such an important matter so early in camp.
“I’m happy that Anthony Rendon is on this team,” Martinez said in his best politician’s voice. “He can do multiple things. He’s a really good hitter. We’re going to play around with it. I’ve talked to him a little bit about different things, and he’s up for anything. He just wants to help us win. We’ll see how it plays out. He could be good in the middle of the lineup. He could be good in the front part of the lineup. We’ll just see.”
Martinez isn’t revealing much of anything about his lineup plans these days, no matter the player involved. The only thing he has said definitively is that Adam Eaton (if healthy) will lead off. The rest remains up for consideration.
What about spacing out left-handed batters and right-handed batters? Does Martinez believe that’s important?
“Based on information, we’ll do different things,” he said. “I’m not opposed to putting two lefties (back-to-back), especially when you have the two lefties we have in our lineup (Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy). Our lefties can handle left-handed pitchers. But based on information and how guys are doing, we’ll move things around and be a little creative.”
No luck there. Perhaps, though, we’re getting a hint of Martinez’s plans with today’s lineup against the Braves. For the first time this spring, six healthy regulars are starting, with only Eaton and Murphy held out while they continue to recover from knee surgery.
There is one major twist to note: Ryan Zimmerman is going to lead off today. Not because Martinez is considering that as an actual solution to anything, but simply because he wants to give Zimmerman a chance to get a couple of quick at-bats and hit the showers without needing to play too many innings in the field.
But if you look at the lineup after Zimmerman (Brian Goodwin batting second, followed by Trea Turner, Harper, Rendon, Matt Adams, Howie Kendrick, Matt Wieters and Michael A. Taylor) you kind of get a picture of what Martinez is thinking.
Replace Goodwin with Eaton, then slide Murphy and Zimmerman into Adams and Kendrick’s spots and you’ve got the makings of a well-balanced everyday lineup. In fact, it’s the same lineup Baker would have used had everyone been healthy last year - with Rendon and Zimmerman flip-flopped in the No. 4 and No. 6 spots.
So did we figure something out there, Davey?
“Right now, I wouldn’t read into things that we’re doing,” the skipper said. “I don’t know if you guys saw the lineup with Zim ... he’s going to lead off. Before we did that, I had a conversation with him, and he was all for it. He was jacked up, actually. But it’s just to get him maybe an extra at-bat so he’s not out there playing defense for a long period of time.”
Sigh. In the end, it’s probably best if we all just wait til March 29 to find out what this team’s actual lineup looks like.