WASHINGTON -- A full baseball season is a grind, but for Nationals rookie Anthony Rendon, it's also a welcome challenge.
Rendon, who has split time between the Minors and Majors, played his 98th game of the season on Saturday. That might not seem to be a huge number, but it's a meaningful one for a player who has seen injuries cut into his career. This is his first chance to experience a complete professional season.
"It'd be awesome just to make it through a full season. That's an accomplishment in itself," Rendon said. "No one actually knows what the hard rigors of a full season is until you actually go through 150, 160 games. I didn't either until I'm actually experiencing it now. I've got a lot of respect for these guys who do it for 10, 15 years. That's an accomplishment in itself and I feel like I'm proud of myself that I'm actually doing it."
During his college career at Rice, Rendon played about 60 games per season. He dealt with ankle injuries at the end of his freshman and sophomore years, then spent most of his junior campaign fighting a shoulder problem that limited him mostly to designated hitter and ate into his production.
The Nationals made Rendon the sixth overall pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, but he didn't debut as a pro until '12. In his second game at Class A Advanced Potomac, he fractured his left ankle and didn't return until mid-July, finishing the season with 43 games.
But Rendon has been healthy from Day 1 this year.
"It feels normal again," Rendon said. "It's good to come out here every day and try to be a part of the game every day, not just playing and then next thing you know having to rehab or do something from an injury standpoint."
Since the beginning of last year, director of player development Doug Harris and others in the organization preached to Rendon the importance of taking care of his body and preparing for the toll of a long season.
The 23-year-old has repeated the same routine every day since Spring Training, working in the weight room and spending time in the hot and cold tubs. He also does what he calls a "maintenance routine" for his ankles, stretching them and completing a series of exercises in an effort to prevent another injury.
"I'm feeling all right," Rendon said. "I didn't want my body to get to a point where I felt fatigued every day, where I felt breakdowns. That's why I wanted to make sure I stay on top of it this year. So I'm holding up good."
When Rendon arrived for his second stint with the Nats on June 5, he not only adjusted to a new position at second base, but also went on an offensive tear, hitting .392 over his first 18 games. He has hit only .194 in 36 games since, but has picked up the pace in August as he fights to counter the adjustments made by pitchers. He said the slump had nothing to do with fatigue.
"I told [the media] when I first came up and when I was going through my hot streak, when I was hitting whatever I was hitting, that I'm not going to hit like this throughout the whole season, that I'm going to have a point in the season where I'm not going to be hitting everything, and that time came," Rendon said. "That's baseball."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @HitTheCutoff. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.