VIERA, Fla. - Now that they've locked up their present third baseman for the foreseeable future, the Nationals have made some decisions regarding third base prospect Anthony Rendon, the sixth overall pick in June's draft. General manager Mike Rizzo told MLB.com today that Rendon would play third base in the minors this season, though where he'll start the year has yet to be determined, and manager Davey Johnson said Rendon will start at third base Friday when the Nationals host Georgetown in an exhibition game at Space Coast Stadium.
Rendon has been told he'll play shortstop and third base during spring training, though Johnson wants to spend some time schooling him on second base, as well. Johnson knew Rendon had a reputation at Rice as an advanced hitter with a good glove, and the manager's early looks at the prospect in spring drills have been positive.
"I never had seen him swing," Johnson said. "I like his actions a lot, his approach. To me, Bobby Boone paid me a very nice compliment when he said that Anthony swings like I swung. Kind of a hitch, kind of dropped it down, bring it up, below the head. I thought it was much more of a compliment to me than it was to him. But he's special."
Rendon feels fortunate to have Johnson as his tutor at second base, a position he played regularly until his high school growth spurt precipitated a move to shortstop. When Rendon got to Rice, he was moved to third base, though he played second in college as recently as last season.
"He knows, just as much as we do, that second base is a different world," Rendon said. "That side of the infield is way different - the way the ball comes off the bat and especially the feet work, too. When you're accustomed to going from (the left) side, then going to the opposite side, everything's totally different. I'm glad he's taking his time with me and I'm really thankful for that. I don't want to go out there and make a fool of myself."
With Ryan Zimmerman now signed through 2019, and the Nationals holding an option for 2020, a positional switch could be in Rendon's future. But Rendon already understands the business of baseball and how teams have to take care of their core players, even at the expense of a recent draft selection.
"Why wouldn't you want to lock down a great player like that?" Rendon said when asked about Zimmerman's presence. "He's made his mark in baseball and in this organization. He's an All-Star player. Why wouldn't you want to re-sign him? You have to. You have to lock him down."
Right now, Rendon will move ahead, unsure of what position he will play beyond this year.
"They really haven't discussed it," he said. "I've only been here for a couple of months, including the instructional league, so I guess they're just trying to get a feel for me right now. We'll see how I play during the games and then I guess I'll get some more information as everything goes."
About that deal: Turns out the team option for 2020 included in Zimmerman's extension is for $18 million, not $24 million as originally reported. The Nationals also have a $2 million buyout if they opt not to exercise the 2020 option. The year-by-year breakdown of Zimmerman's extension, which will be tacked on to his current deal that runs through 2013, will pay him $12 million in 2012, $14 million from 2013-18 and $18 million in 2019. There's also a $10 million personal services contract. So Zimmerman will earn either $132 million over the next nine years if the Nationals pick up his 2020 option, or $116 million if they don't. There are performance incentives that could push the value of the deal to $150 million.