Rendon gets two hits in return; Nats happy to have him back

Slugger was sidelined for 53 games by knee and oblique injuries

Rendon gets two hits in return; Nats happy to have him back

WASHINGTON -- After missing more than two months of action because of a left MCL sprain and oblique strain, Nationals infielder Anthony Rendon was activated from the disabled list on Thursday, and had two hits in his season debut.

Rendon started at second base and hit second in Thursday's 2-1 loss to the Cubs, singling in his first at-bat. Rendon then moved to third base when Yunel Escobar left the game in the first inning with a right wrist injury.

Rendon makes turn at second

Rendon, who finished 2-for-4 with a double, hurt his knee making a diving play on March 9 against the Braves. By April, Rendon thought he was ready to play, but then he strained his oblique during a rehab assignment.

"It was frustrating the first couple of months, but I'm happy to be back," Rendon said before Thursday's game. "We were all surprised [that I stayed out as long as I did]. I just happened to miss important events, but what can you do?"

The Nationals also recalled right-hander A.J. Cole from Triple-A Syracuse, as well as optioning right-hander Taylor Jordan to Syracuse and infielder Wilmer Difo to Double-A Harrisburg.

The Nationals are hoping the return of Rendon will improve the offense. In their past six games, the Nats are hitting .222 with a .295 on-base percentage.

"You can't expect him to be the catalyst, but we are glad to have him back," Nationals manager Matt Williams said about Rendon. "The fact that he is physically able to play is important to us and important to him as well. So he feels good. He got some at-bats, not the ideal amount of at-bats, but nonetheless he is like what we said [Wednesday], he is a quick study."

Last season, Rendon was named the team's MVP after hitting .287 with 21 home runs and 83 RBIs. He also took home the National League Silver Slugger Award for third basemen. However, he will play second base, while Yunel Escobar will remain at third base, according to Williams.

Danny Espinosa, who played well during Rendon's absence, will be back on the bench. He could spell a player at second and third base and shortstop.

"We'll adjust day by day, but as it is, Anthony will play the majority at second base," Williams said. "If we need to spell, we can do that. You hesitate to say anything about an everyday lineup, given what's going on the first couple of months."

During his rehab assignment at Double-A Harrisburg, Rendon played second only and hit .250 with three RBIs in eight games.

Rendon doesn't care what position he plays, as long as he has a bat in his hand.

"As long as I'm out here to help the team win, I'm OK," Rendon said.

Cole, who is ranked as the No. 2 prospect in Washington's farm system according to MLB.com, returns to the Nationals for his third Major League assignment of 2015. Cole is expected to be a long reliever the next couple of days. There is no guarantee that he will start Saturday against the Cubs. Cole has appeared in three games for the Nats, recording his first career save on May 15 at San Diego.

Cole's first career strikeout

Difo appeared in five games in his first big league assignment. The second baseman of the future went 1-for-5 during his callup. He picked up the first Major League hit of his career in his first at-bat, a pinch-hitting appearance on May 19 vs. the New York Yankees.

Jordan appeared in two games for the Nationals during his second MLB stint of 2015, going 0-2 with an 8.44 ERA while making one relief appearance and one start.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.