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Minor League Baseball: Rendon out to prove he has ‘it’

NATIONALS’ 2ND-TO-TOP PROSPECT

HOPES TO MAKE HIS STAY

IN SINGLE-A BALL A SHORT ONE

BY ZAC BOYER

WOODBRIDGE—There were times during spring training when Anthony Rendon would sit at his locker in the Washington Nationals’ clubhouse and merely watch what his teammates were doing.

He wanted to observe their routines, their attitudes, their approach. As the Nationals’ first pick in the amateur draft last June, Rendon understood a lot would be expected of him—and he’d have to find a way to handle it.

“I tried to be observant of every person in there—tried to see what they do, how they go about their business, when they do their business and when it’s time to relax and play around,” Rendon said. “I feel like I’m going to be doing that for one or two more spring trainings until I get used to everybody—and they get used to me and I can start being myself.”

The Nationals hope it doesn’t take that long for Rendon, 21, to be himself. For that matter, neither do the Potomac Nationals, who introduced Rendon and 25 other teammates Wednesday at Pfitzner Stadium in advance of their Friday opener at Lynchburg.

Considered to be the team’s top prospect behind Bryce Harper, the 6-foot, 195-pound Rendon went 3-for-12 with an RBI and four runs in eight games during his brief stay in the Nationals’ major league camp before being reassigned.

That time was valuable to Rendon, who knows maturity is the key to his success as he begins his professional career.

“I think he’s got the ‘it factor,’” said Potomac hitting coach Marlon Anderson, whose 12-year major league career led to a stint as a roving instructor for the Nationals in 2011. “I think he’s got the ability, but this game is tough. Everything he’s done up until this point has been as an amateur. He’s been in high school and in college, and now he’s going to learn professional baseball—which I don’t see him having trouble with.”

Rendon was chosen No. 6 overall by the Nationals out of Rice, becoming the first collegiate position player selected. He hit .327 over 63 games with 58 runs and 37 RBIs, and he wrapped up his three-year collegiate career with a .371 average and .505 on-base percentage while winning several national player of the year awards as a sophomore.

He didn’t repeat as a junior because he served primarily as a designated hitter while recovering from a shoulder injury. Questions about his position have followed him to the professional ranks, too, but for different reasons.

The Nationals gave Rendon, a third baseman, a look at both second base and shortstop during the spring primarily because of Ryan Zimmerman, who signed a six-year, $100 million contract extension in late February.

Despite the apparent logjam at the position, Potomac manager Brian Rupp said Rendon will be the team’s everyday third baseman—a move prompted by the organization’s willingness to try not to overload Rendon with too many changes at once.

“He played really well at third base, but the kid can hit,” Rupp said. “He’s got that different sound to his bat, and I hope he tends to be pretty special and put up some big numbers.”

There’s no apparent timetable for Rendon to stay with Potomac before advancing to Harrisburg, the Nationals’ Double-A affiliate. Rendon said he hasn’t been told anything, and his coaches said they want to see him play at a consistent level before giving a promotion some thought.

It doesn’t appear likely, however, that he’ll spend the whole year with the team. And when a promotion comes, all Rendon can do is watch, learn—and be ready.

“They just wanted me to take in as much as I can, and when my time comes, if I can help the ballclub one day, all right, I’ll let it happen,” Rendon said.

Zac Boyer: 540/374-5440

zboyer@freelancestar.com

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