AUBURN | The first pitch Anthony Rendon saw in the New York-Penn League was an inside fastball.
The second, a slider, low.
The third turned into a golf shot that bounced off the top the batting cage about 375 feet from home plate.
These kind of things don’t happen often.
Since 2000, only two Washington Nationals first round draft picks played in the NY-PL and both were pitchers. The last threw in 2006.
Rendon, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft, hit a home run on the third pitch he saw in Auburn on Thursday at Falcon Park in a 6-5 Doubledays win.
“I was just trying to stay comfortable up there, stay relaxed and I got a good one to hit,” said Rendon who was in only his eighth professional game after fracturing his left ankle in April. “It just happened to go out.”
“He just blacked out,” catcher Spencer Kieboom immediately joked about Rendon’s homer.
“Yeah, I didn’t know where to go,” Rendon played back. “Do I go to third base?”
Rendon struck out twice and walked after the homer. He was lifted for a defensive replacement in the seventh.
“I am feeling good. Of course it is going to be sore these first couple of weeks since I haven’t played in so long,” Rendon said about working back off the three-month layoff. “I am ready to face it.”
The top prospect in the Washington organization, according to Baseball American and MLB.com, is on a rehab assignment with Auburn for about a week. He may be here longer depending on how his ankle, wrapped in black tape Thursday, feels.
A late signing date and lingering injuries kept Rendon off the field in 2011. This April, he was 2-for-4 with a double and a triple in two games to start the season in High Single-A Potomac before a stop sign stopped his year.
“It was definitely frustrating. I was rounding third and coach gave me the stop sign so I tried to stop and turn around and I didn’t stop how I planned to,” Rendon said before Thursday’s game. “My feet caught up under me and I went down.”
At first it was diagnosed as a sprain, but his ankle was partially fractured.
“The frustration came from the fact that I was finally getting back into the swing of things. I felt like I could hold my own being up there,” Rendon said about Potomac. “I was finally looking forward to playing a full season like normal and then that happened. It was frustrating to say the least.”
He returned to play last week going 4-for-11 with the Gulf Coast League Nationals. He hit two home runs there, but Auburn is still different.
“Here you get to sleep in,” Rendon said. “It just feels good to be out here with the team and with the crowd. Down there there is literally no one in the stands but the other players and pitchers that aren’t playing.”
Despite three home runs in less than 10 days, Rendon still sees a long road ahead.
“There was a feeling of satisfaction to just get back on the field. That is why you do rehab assignments to get used to being out there and feeling normal again like you used to. I am still far from normal,” Rendon said. “I don’t feel comfortable at the plate yet. That is what these couple of weeks (on rehab) are here for. I want to be comfortable so I can be normal again.”
After the first three pitches he seemed pretty comfortable.