This weekend I traveled down to Greenville, NC to watch Anthony Rendon and the Rice Owls take on the East Carolina University Pirates for a three game series. After the game on Saturday I sat down with Rendon to discuss a variety of topics, such as his ankle injuries, his shoulder issues this year, the 2011 draft, and the new bats in the NCAA.
You came in to the season as the consensus number one draft prospect. You had the big season last year. Coming in to the season, what was your approach with all the hype that surrounded you?
I mean, it’s not letting any of that stuff get to my head. I guess you can’t even focus on what’s going on outside and what people are writing about or what people are saying about the future. I’m not even there right yet, even if it does happen, I’m still at Rice. I’ve still got a lot of business to handle here. Me personally, my class, we haven’t even been to Omaha yet, so I can’t be worrying about pro ball, or what’s going on down the road. If it happens it happens. It’s going to be a dream come true. But I’ve got to handle some business here before I go anywhere else.
You had two major ankle injuries. Describe each of those injuries, and what exactly happened with each one?
The first one was my freshman year, super regional, LSU. I was going for a fly ball down the line, going towards their bullpen, and their warning track on the side wasn’t hard dirt, it was more like mulch. My shortstop ran in front of me, he left a footprint. So I stepped in his footprint, which was about 6-8 inches deep, and I just rolled it inside there, turned it internally. Tore some ligaments, and we got those back. Second time, Team USA, I got picked off, I was running to second, I tried to stop and turn around. I planted my right foot and I planted it inside, I couldn’t turn, my body kept going, and I just rolled it externally. So I broke it externally. They’re two completely different injuries. People say that they’re related to each other, he has a bad ankle, but they’re two freak accidents that happened to the same ankle.
For the people who say you are injury prone, and might have concerns about the ankles, what exactly makes those freak accidents as opposed to the concerns that people have with your ankles?
I wouldn’t blame them if they said I’m injury prone. I had two ankle injuries in two years. I’ve been hurt every season, so I don’t blame them for saying that. They don’t know what goes on, on the field, though. If it’s up to me, I’m healthy, ready to go, ankle’s not bothering me. Me personally, what I’m going to say is I’m ready to go. I’m not affected by it. Coach Graham said I look faster from the ankle injuries because I had to work out my legs for once. I don’t blame them for saying that. I’d say that about me too if I was looking at a player who was doing the same thing. It doesn’t bother me. Whichever way God takes me, that’s where I’m going.
This year you’ve been kept off the field with a sore shoulder. What happened with the shoulder at the start of the year?
Coming in, coach said “You’ve got your ankle injuries out of the way, this should be your last one. I don’t want no arm trouble from you.” I guess during the Spring practices, before I was getting out there I was doing all these stretches, I was overcompensating, not trying to get hurt. I guess I was doing too much stretching, because I really didn’t stretch much in the past. I was really like a couple stretches and go. I guess I was overcompensating, and I was doing too many stretches, and I guess I tried to overstretch. That’s the only way to put it. I stretched too far, and I stretched too long, and a muscle strain just tweaked. It’s been bothering me, but it’s getting better. I’m on a throwing program right now, just taking it slow. You can’t jump back in to things. If I throw one hard I could tweak it again, so I’ve just got to take it how it is, until I feel right again and go back out there.
You did return to third base for one game, then went back to being the designated hitter. How did you feel after that game?
We played a Wednesday game, we went to Lamar. I practiced Thursday, I played Friday, then that Saturday morning it just didn’t feel right again. It was just to the point where I was like “I can’t do this, I’ve just got to take a step back, make sure it’s healthy”. I don’t want to be out through the whole post season. I know we’re going to make it to the post season, we’ve got a great team. I don’t want to be out and hurt my team more if we go all the way to the post season and I can’t play at all.
Are there any plans to get you back on the field any time soon?
Definitely. I’m in my throwing program right now. I’m throwing the ball every day, doing my rehab, just strengthening it back up. Sooner than you know it I’ll get back out there, because I want to get back out there.
So it’s feeling better than it was a few weeks ago after you returned to the field?
Yeah, definitely. Rest is always going to help anything you do, any injury you have. The more you rest it, the better you feel. So you’ve got to strengthen it back up, and just get that throwing motion back, and it will be all good.
You’ve been pitched around, getting intentionally walked a lot, including five in the first two games this weekend. Does that frustrate you?
Of course it’s going to be frustrating. I’m a hitter, I want to hit. It’s frustrating obviously, but I can’t let it affect me, I don’t let it affect me. It’s part of the game. If they want to do that, I just start talking to the catcher, and they’ll always say something, so I’m always smiling up there. I shrug it off, and I’ve got to trust my teammates behind me that they’re going to drive us in, and they have been this year, so I can’t get mad.
Because you’re getting walked in basically one out of every two plate appearances since Jeremy Rathjen went down, has that affected you from not getting as many cuts?
There’s not really any affect. I just go up there, and I’ve got to have the same approach and everything. I go up there, I’ve got to hit the ball hard, put a good swing on it. Nothing is ever going to change. Any at-bat there is, your approach always has to stay the same. If you think too much, you’re going to screw yourself when you’re out there, because you’re going to be over-thinking.
In the at-bats where you’re getting pitched to, what kind of pitches are you seeing? Are you getting pitched mostly out of the zone, or are they giving you good pitches to hit?
It’s just a variety. It depends on the team, or the situation. Every at-bat you’re always going to get a pitch to hit. It’s just up to the hitter to capitalize on that mistake and it’s just either inside or outside. Mostly they work outside.
You’ve got the new bats this year. How have you felt hitting with those?
I feel alright. It’s just like anything, you know if you put a broomstick in your hand, you’ve got to hit with it, so you’ve got to find a way to get on and get the job done. I feel that if you square it up still, the ball is still going to go, but obviously there is less give on the handle and on the outside part of the bat. I know I’ve heard some people say statistics are down this year, so obviously it does make a difference. The reason for it was to make it safer. A lot of pitchers were getting killed and stuff like that, so it’s working. We’ve just got to play the game now.
How would these compare to wooden bats? Are they still closer to the old aluminum bats?
They’re a lot closer to wood. Even I would say that some of the best wood out there, I think they’re a lot better. I think the hard maple wood, and the M9, I think they swing a lot better. I think they swing a lot better. I think you square one up and they go farther. That’s just my personal idea.
When the Braves drafted you, how much consideration did you give to signing?
I was definitely thinking about signing. They felt really strong about me, they really liked me. I actually went to a tournament in Georgia, I played in front of their scouting director, and I got some at-bats through a summer league team. I just played in a wood bat tournament so they could see me a little bit more. I guess things just didn’t work out, I just couldn’t pass up a Rice education, just for the fact that it’s Rice. Not many people get to go to Rice.
Are there any kind of dream teams that you’d like to play for, like a favorite team?
I’m actually kind of a weird character, I don’t even care. I really don’t follow baseball that much, don’t have a favorite team. I’ll follow my hometown team, the Astros, so I wouldn’t mind going to the Astros if they did pick me. I’d get to play in front of my home crowd, all the people I grew up with, my family, friends. I know they’ve always said “yeah, I hope you get drafted by the Astros, we’d get to see you everyday if you go over here”. Yeah, that would be pretty cool, something I grew up with, something I know for a long time obviously is going to be more comfortable.
How would you grade your season so far, all things considered?
It’s obviously been my worst season so far. In my opinion I don’t like the way I’m playing right now.
You’ve had the low power this year. Would you attribute that to the new bats, the shoulder injury, being pitched around, a combination of those?
It’s definitely the injury. (Editors note: This line could be confusing with the line that follows. Anthony said this in more of a “the injury has definitely played a part” tone. We were rushed for time at this point in the interview) It’s probably going to be mostly just being pitched around and the new bats, a combination of that part. I squared up maybe two other balls that would have gone out with the other bats, but other than that I’m just not hitting home runs this year. I think I displayed my power the previous two years, so I don’t think I have to go out there and hit a home run every time, I’m just trying to get on base.
I don’t know if you pay much attention to the draft. Now there’s Gerrit Cole and there’s you pretty much battling it out for the top spot. Do you focus on any of that stuff at all?
I mean, no, I’ll hear it, all the guys will say stuff. I’ve got a lot of friends and my family will say “they’re talking this and that”. I mean that’s fine. If I don’t go number one, if I don’t go number two. If I look at it like this, I was drafted out of high school in the 27th round, and if I even make it anywhere a lot lower than that, then I thought I made a great decision to go to college. I’m just trusting the Lord that he takes me where I want to go. I just trust that if I get first, if I get second, if I get third, if I get last pick, that’s where I’m supposed to go, so that’s what happens.