Anthony Rendon looked just like the former World Series champion the Angels signed after spending most of the past two years on the injured list. His biggest expectation is to get through this season without any more freak injuries.
And his other expectations for the season?
“To be the last team standing,” said the third baseman ahead of opening day. “That has to be a goal for every major league team for this league to be competitive. If you’re not playing this game to be the last team, then you shouldn’t be playing at all.
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“That should be our goal every year.”
Rendon is one of the few players in the Angels clubhouse who knows what it feels like to be on that final team.
He played a major role in the Washington Nationals’ World Series Championship in 2019, a year in which he also received his second Silver Slugger Award, was an All-Star, All-MLB First Team, and MLB Players Outstanding Player Choice NL was voted the year, among other achievements.
And so far this year has felt more normal for Rendon, who has had the best spring training of his career. In 15 games, he hit .500 with an on-base plus slugging rate of 1.367.
“I think it hit me in late January, early February,” Rendon said. “I was in the cage, I was in a workout and it just came to me. I was like, ‘Man, it actually feels like I’m back training for spring, not necessarily next season.’
“Two surgeries, two years, every offseason was like, ‘Okay, I have to go to rehab, I’m not going 100% in, I’m trying to get back there,'” he said. “And there was a point this past off-season where I felt like I was actually preparing for next season, rather than just trying to get healthy for next season.”
Rendon said he thinks his spring went well, but he acknowledged the double-edged sword of how numbers can be touted by some and dismissed by others for not being earned against regular-season competition.
For manager Phil Nevin – who in February envisioned a lineup likely to be led by Taylor Ward, Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani and Rendon on opening day and beyond – the strength Rendon carries in Game 1 of 162 is unmistakable.
“More than just health, I mean, you watch him and he can do swings that he hasn’t been able to do in a couple of years,” Nevin said. “We saw that early in the spring and it’s continuing at camp.”
In a game, the presence of a healthy Rendon is an undeniable boon. The Angels were racing high in the American League West last season before Rendon suffered a partially dislocated tendon in his wrist. His teammates know what it means to have him in the line-up.
“Tony is our anchor,” Ward said. “I think he’s one of the biggest plays we have and I know we have so many plays, but I think keeping him healthy year-round will make all the difference for us.”
“I won’t say it changes our whole team, but it makes us a lot better,” Pitcher said Aaron Loup called. “Corner, third base is a big point. Especially for me. I get a lot of balls on this line it seems.
The Angels are either still underdogs or the team to watch this season, depending on which fans or baseball pundits you poll.
There’s also the narrative that the Angels are facing a World Series or Bust year, with another season of Ohtani, Trout and Rendon together not guaranteed. But that’s not pressure the team is feeling from outside, according to Rendon.
“I love the fact that we just fly under the radar,” said Rendon, “that we just want to do our thing and be on top at the end of the year.
“We want to surprise many”
And he’s just as excited as he was in his career to open a new season.
“Every opening day is special,” said Rendon. “This is a great achievement. So for the young people, and even for a guy like me who’s been here a while, you still get butterflies. You’re still enjoying the moment.”
Source : www.latimes.com