Quiet camper

Rookie Ren­don draws raves for sweet swing

The Washington Times Daily - - Sports - BY AMANDA COMAK

VIERA, FLA. | If not for his swing, the unas­sum­ing na­ture with which An­thony Ren­don has gone about his first ma­jor league camp might fool you into think­ing he’s just an­other non­roster in­vi­tee. The Washington Na­tion­als’ 2011 first-round draft pick, the player many con­sid­ered the best po­si­tion prospect, isn’t bom­bas­tic or ver­bose.

“You re­ally don’t even no­tice him un­less you go over and talk to him,” third base­man Ryan Zim­mer­man said Thurs­day, his locker in a corner of the club­house that’s about as far as you could get from Ren­don’s. Oh, but that swing. “It’s about as clean a de­liv­ery of the bar­rel as you will find,” said Na­tion­als third base coach Bo Porter, who’s thrown bat­ting prac­tice to Ren­don through­out the spring and watched him power the ball to all fields. “They don’t come around too of­ten.”

“You know the thing about that swing?” Porter added. “It plays in any ball­park.”

The Na­tion­als have big plans for Ren­don. They signed him to a ma­jor league deal last Au­gust with the in­ten­tion that he wouldn’t spend too much time toil­ing away in their mi­nor league sys­tem. Zim­mer­man’s re­cent long-term con­tract ex­ten­sion makes it un­likely that Ren­don’s ini­tial spot in the ma­jor leagues will be at third base, but his soft hands and quick wrists — the ones that give him the swing that coaches and teammates are swoon­ing over — help his ver­sa­til­ity in the field as well. If he hits, they’ll find a place for him.

“I think he’s go­ing to help us in a lot of ways,” Zim­mer­man said. “I don’t know when, but he’s def­i­nitely go­ing to help.”

Ren­don’s tal­ent has given him ev­ery rea­son to feel at home in the club­house. There seems no short­age of team of­fi­cials who feel he’ll join them in Washington in rel­a­tively short or­der, wher­ever his po­si­tion may be. And yet he’s found his path is in­stead one of quiet dili­gence. “He’s like, sneaky con­fi­dent,” as Na­tion­als short­stop Ian Des­mond put it.

“He’s not walk­ing around with his chest puffed out, he’s do­ing things the right way,” Des­mond added. “He comes and sits at his locker, doesn’t say any­thing un­less you talk to him. Me, I re­spect that. I think the rest of the guys re­spect that. He was taught well by some­body.”

The son of Rene and Brid­get Ren­don, who’ve watched proudly from the stands this week in Florida, An­thony is a Texas boy to his core. He calls re­porters sir and ma’am un­til they in­sist he stop, smiles shyly at the sug­ges­tion that he’s im­press­ing the right peo­ple dur­ing his time here and notes that he’s try­ing his best thus far in camp (2-for-10) even though the nine-month lay­off he dealt with be­fore this is tak­ing its toll. Vet­er­ans on the Na­tion­als have urged him to be more vo­cal, to get to know them, but Ren­don is bid­ing his time.

“[I was told] just do your work,” Ren­don said of the ad­vice he got be­fore he ar­rived. “Just try to stay quiet, try to learn and ob­serve the veteran guys and maybe a cou­ple spring train­ings later you can start open­ing up, start be­ing your­self.

“I’m try­ing to keep my dis­tance, but stay close at the same time.”

His per­son­al­ity sits in stark con­trast to that of the Na­tion­als’ last first-round pick who joined ma­jor league camp, out­fielder Bryce Harper. But that doesn’t stop teammates from find­ing an­other — per­haps more flat­ter­ing — com­par­i­son for him with­out leav­ing the club­house.

“He’s like the spit­ting im­age — a lit­tle bit smaller — but ex­actly like Ryan Zim­mer­man when he signed,” Des­mond said. “I re­mem­ber when Zim signed, we [watched him hit] and we were all like ‘Whoa! How do you do that?’ But it worked. That’s ex­actly what An­thony’s like.

“The ex­treme hand move­ment that they have when they swing, the good ro­ta­tion, he hits the ball on the bar­rel a lot — more than not — and his char­ac­ter and his per­son­al­ity are al­most iden­ti­cal. . . . I think this kid’s go­ing to be re­ally spe­cial.”

NOTES: Bryce Harper was a late scratch from Thurs­day’s 8-0 vic­tory over the Hous­ton Astros with left calf tight­ness. The Na­tion­als do not be­lieve the is­sue is se­ri­ous and ex­pect Harper to miss two or three games.

Ed­win Jack­son, Ross Detwiler, Ryan Perry and Henry Ro­driguez com­bined for nine shutout in­nings Thurs­day. The start­ing pitch­ers have thrown 12 straight score­less in­nings dat­ing to Mon­day night.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

An­thony Ren­don was drafted sixth over­all last June, but his nor­mal third base po­si­tion is oc­cu­pied by veteran Ryan Zim­mer­man.

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