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Infielders are on the move in Nationals’ contingency plan

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Anthony Rendon was the sixth overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft by the Washington Nationals. He’s a third baseman, but the team will give him work at second base and shortstop this spring training. (Associated Press)

VIERA, Fla. — Anthony Rendon is a third baseman. The Washington Nationals see him as a third baseman, they plan to play him in the minor leagues as a third baseman and they don’t intend to force him into a position change unless it’s necessary to get him to the major leagues.

It won’t stop them, however, from training him at shortstop and second base this spring as they try him out at three infield positions. In fact, they’ll be moving a lot of their infielders around during camp to work on contingency plans in case of injury. Steve Lombardozzi will work at second, shortstop and third; Mark DeRosa will work at third, second, first and in the corner outfield spots.

Nationals manager Davey Johnson also said Thursday he’ll play second baseman Danny Espinosa at shortstop sparingly this spring in case they lose shortstop Ian Desmond to a long-term injury. Johnson said he would prefer to have Espinosa at short rather than DeRosa, Lombardozzi or Andres Blanco if Desmond had to miss several days.

“So I would look at that to see how it affected him mentally to move him a couple games in the spring,” Johnson said. “And that’s the only reason.”

Espinosa came up as a shortstop but switched to second base just before his major league debut because Desmond already was occupying the position. Johnson made it clear they have no plans for that to change any time soon.

But Rendon’s role is less clear. The 2011 first-round draft pick who is in major league camp by virtue of the contract he signed last August plays a position occupied by Ryan Zimmerman. For his path to the big leagues to be short, versatility could be vital. With that in mind, Rendon spent the morning working on his footwork at second and shortstop with Triple-A manager Tony Beasley.

“It seems like he can move around out there fine,” Beasley said, calling Rendon a “very high-aptitude kid.”

“His feet are working correctly,” he said. “He was summoned over here to get acclimated … and most of the work was emphasized on footwork on the second base side because it’s a danger spot. You have a chance to get injured if your footwork is not good.”

Because of that injury risk, Johnson said Rendon wouldn’t play second base in a game until the manager has two or three weeks of work with him his spring.

Wang takes precautions

Chien-Ming Wang was scheduled to throw his second bullpen of the spring, but the Nationals decided to push him back a day to allow his surgically repaired right shoulder extra recovery time.

Wang noticed last spring that when he’d take just one day between bullpens he’d feel some stiffness.

“Everything’s good,” Wang said. “I’m throwing [Friday].”

The plan will be for him to take two days off between sessions, but Johnson said the team expects to begin to stretch all of their pitchers out similarly as they get deeper into camp.

Around the horn

• Reliever Henry Rodriguez arrived in camp but did not throw with his scheduled group. He was not allowed to participate until he passed a physical. He’s expected to throw Friday.

• Outfielder Xavier Paul also reported to camp, making the spring roster complete.

• Minor league left-hander Sammy Solis is in the Nationals’ accelerated camp but will be a bit behind the other pitchers, Rizzo said. Solis was examined by Dr. Lewis Yocum after he dealt with elbow soreness in the Arizona Fall League and was shut down for the winter. He went through a throwing program and will be monitored this spring.

About the Author

Amanda Comak

Amanda Comak covers the Washington Nationals and comes to The Washington Times from the Cape Cod Times and after stints with MLB.com and the Amsterdam (N.Y.) Recorder. A Massachusetts native and 2008 graduate of Boston University, Amanda can be reached at acomak@washingtontimes.com and you can follow her on Twitter @acomak.

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