Rendon building chemistry in Year 2

March 1st, 2021

Angels star was nearly late to camp after his Houston-area neighborhood was without power for 50 to 55 hours due to the winter storm that hit Texas two weeks ago, but he was able to take refuge at his in-laws and arrived to camp on time.

Rendon, a Houston native who signed a seven-year deal with the Angels before last season, said he was fortunate that everything turned out OK for him and his family, which includes two young daughters.

“We made it here,” Rendon said via Zoom on Monday. “We were able to get to my father-in-law's, and the girls were able to get warm.”

He was also held out of the first two Cactus League games due to some general soreness, but is expected to be in the lineup in the coming days. Rendon said he otherwise had a normal offseason and hasn’t changed much of his winter routine during his eight-year career.

But Rendon is looking forward to a full season after last year’s 60-game sprint saw him finish 10th in the balloting for AL Most Valuable Player after batting .286/.418/.497 with nine homers, 11 doubles and 31 RBIs in 52 games. He said it’s tough to glean much from last year, considering the length and the fact that it was hard to build chemistry with teammates who were required to keep a safe distance from each other.

“Last year was kind of a whatever season, let’s be honest,” Rendon said. “I mean, there were times last year where I didn’t even see any of the bullpen guys unless they came into the game. I didn’t see a lot of my teammates because we were all in separate locker rooms. That’s not a team atmosphere.”

Building that chemistry has been preached heavily by new general manager Perry Minasian and manager Joe Maddon this spring, and Rendon is fully buying in. Rendon, 30, said he’s learned how important chemistry is over the years, especially after winning the World Series with the Nationals in 2019.

“I didn’t really buy into it too often in my younger days, or at all, but as you grow and have more years, you realize how much of a benefit and how crucial it is,” Rendon said. “You have to enjoy all those people in the clubhouse every day because you’re going to see them more than you’re going to see your family.”

Rendon has also built a strong relationship with Maddon, but admitted he saw him a bit differently when he was playing against him. Maddon is known for his quirkiness as a manager, but it can overshadow his immense knowledge of the game.

But Maddon and Rendon have had several lengthy conversations over the last year to get to know each other better and get a better feel for how they view things.

“Playing against him, being on the sideline, I always thought he was a nutcase,” Rendon said. “But now being on the same team as him and having conversations with him, there’s always a rhyme or reason for why he may do something. It might be unorthodox, but he’s done the research, looked up the numbers and has a gut feeling that comes into play, too. So I respect that.”

Maddon can’t help but gush over Rendon’s work ethic and his ability to stay even-keeled no matter the situation. He believes he sets a great tone for the rest of the players, especially the younger ones who can learn from Rendon.

“He plays the game tension-free, very calm approach, consistent,” Maddon said. “He’s like a metronome, whether it’s defensively or his batting practice. Once the game begins, there’s no moment too big for him. He is what he looks like. A real confident, calm, free baseball player but with a high baseball intellect.”