LOS ANGELES - For eight days, they waited and hoped Anthony Rendon would be able to return to the lineup after fouling a ball off his left big toe. On the ninth day, the Nationals finally decided they could wait no longer.
Except now they’ll have to wait at least seven more days for Rendon to be eligible to return from the disabled list.
In formally placing Rendon on the 10-day DL this afternoon, the Nationals extended the third baseman’s time away beyond what it might have been had they simply made the decision sooner. Because Major League Baseball rules permit a DL move to be backdated only three days, Rendon now won’t be eligible to return until April 29.
Had the Nationals conceded the severity of the injury earlier in the week, they could have potentially had one of their key players back on the field sooner.
“To his defense, he tried to play,” manager Davey Martinez said. “He’s been trying since the third day, and we were like, ‘OK.’ He was adamant. He wanted to try to play.”
Rendon did go through a full pregame workout Saturday and told Martinez he could pinch-hit if needed. He wasn’t prepared to play in the field or run the bases, though. After meeting with club officials today, he agreed it was time to go on the DL.
“It’s coming along; it’s just a slower process than we anticipated,” Rendon said. “Obviously, it’s frustrating, but it’s still early (in the season), so we’re going to be smart about it.”
Officially, Rendon was placed on the DL with a left toe contusion. Though he hit the ball off the top of the toe, the pain now is on the bottom, which remains swollen and discolored. He feels it most when fielding grounders and when setting himself up to throw, with the most pressure on the front of his foot during that action.
Knowing now he has to sit out at least one more week, Rendon can back off a bit and not try to rush himself back into the lineup.
“It’s a little bit of a relief to know you don’t have to go through: ‘Can you play today? Can you go in? Can you pinch-hit? Can you run after you pinch-hit?’ ” he said. “I don’t want to come back and be here and be only a pinch-hit threat. I want to play defense. I want to make sure I’m helping the team.”
The Nationals have played the last nine days without Rendon, Adam Eaton or Daniel Murphy. Eaton (eligible to come off the DL now) has been going through pregame drills and could be ready to return this week in San Francisco, though it seems he still has a ways to go. Murphy got four at-bats, fielded 30 grounders and ran Saturday at extended spring training in West Palm Beach.
Why did the Nats let Rendon’s situation drag out for so long instead of placing him on the DL sooner?
“When you lose a guy like Rendon, who’s a big part of your lineup, and he’s telling you he’ll be available, you’ve got to give him that opportunity,” Martinez said. “And it got to the point now where he finally realized: ‘I can hit, but I can’t do the things I need to be doing to help us win.’ “
Rather than use Rendon’s roster spot on another position player, the Nationals called up reliever Austin L. Adams from Triple-A Syracuse, giving them eight relievers for the time being.
“I want to make sure we have fresh arms in the bullpen,” Martinez said. “Having an extra guy down there gives us flexibility. We’ve been playing a lot of close games, and I want to keep everyone fresh.”