Since his first official game in over a month, Tony Renda has hit the ground running in his return to the Potomac Nationals.
Renda — a Hillsborough native and Serra’s all-time career hits leader — was sidelined for a month with a right quad strain, which he sustained April 11 while legging out an infield single for Washington High-A affiliate Potomac.
“We took it fairly slow with the recovery, even though I was feeling really good,” Renda said. “The farm director told me, ‘We don’t want you to come back a second too early. We want you to be a hundred percent, ready to go play by the time you get back and don’t want this thing to reoccur later in the year.’ And I was all for it.”
Since returning to action Monday, the second baseman has gone 4 for 11 with a double through three games. He is currently hitting .372 (16 for 43) on the year, and is eager to get back on track to smashing doubles at an unrivaled rate. Last season, Renda not only paced the South Atlantic League with 43 doubles at Low-A Hagerstown, he was the only hitter in the league to reach the 40-doubles plateau.
Throughout all of A-ball, only Braves prospect Brandon Drury had more, as the Oregon native tabbed 51 doubles at Low-A South Bend of the Midwest League.
After the injury, Renda resumed baseball activities approximately two-and-a-half weeks later. At that point, he incorporated batting practice and taking groundballs into his rehab, before reporting to extended spring training in Viera, Florida on April 29. He got into his first game in extended spring on May 2 in the same game which big-league catcher Wilson Ramos debuted with the team as part of a rehab assignment in returning from a broken catching hand.
Renda’s recent quad injury is unrelated to the left calf strain that kept him out of defensive action during Cal’s Cinderella run in the 2011 College World Series .
“It’s just one of those things,” Renda said. “I try to go out and play as hard as I can every single night and you never know when something is going to happen and you hope it never does. When it does, it sucks, but you’ve just got to attack it like you attack everything else and find a way to get through it to get it right and get back to playing.”
The injury was the first significant stint on the disabled list in Renda’s career. He soldiered through the 2011 college postseason as a designated hitter. He didn’t temper his aggressive play in resuming his defensive position throughout his junior year of 2012. And he doesn’t plan to downshift now in returning from a month-long layoff, he said.
“I think there’s really one way to play the game, that’s hard,” Renda said. “I think there’s obviously times that you can pick and choose when to really go all out and when to take it easy. For me, I try to go about the game every night the same way, and that’s hard. I play to win.”
Playing the game hard has become a hot-button issue in the Nationals organization with the recent injury to All-Star outfielder Bryce Harper. The 21-year-old veteran superstar was placed on the disabled list April 27 after sustaining a torn ligament of his left thumb while sliding headfirst into third base in a game against San Diego.
Nationals first-year manager Matt Williams openly defended the gusto with which Harper plays the game, as does Renda.
“On our big-league team, the media criticizes Bryce Harper, saying that he won’t last a 162 games,” Renda said. “Well, yeah, he hasn’t put together a full season healthy. But he’s just run into some bad luck — a couple walls here and there, a broken thumb this year — he plays hard. And that’s the way to play the game.”