WASHINGTON -- Neither member of the Nationals All-Star duo will be able to participate in the 2019 MLB All-Star Game on Tuesday night in Cleveland.
First, Anthony Rendon backed out of the game, electing to spend his All-Star break in D.C., recovering from what the Nats revealed are a left hamstring injury and tight left quad that have been nagging him since a three-game series in Cincinnati from May 31-June 2. And late Saturday night, Major League Baseball announced Max Scherzer had also been replaced on the roster, although he will still attend the game in Cleveland.
Dodgers first baseman Max Muncy and Reds right-hander Sonny Gray were selected by MLB to replace Rendon and Scherzer, respectively.
Scherzer was selected for his seventh All-Star Game, but he was still as excited to attend the week’s festivities as he was when selected for the first time.
However, he threw 103 pitches in Saturday’s 6-0 victory over the Royals, so he will not pitch Tuesday on what would be three days' rest. The Nats are also giving him a long break until his next start, which manager Dave Martinez said would come next Sunday in Philadelphia.
Rendon was named an All-Star for the first time in his career this season, an accomplishment he said he feels honored by, especially because it came from being voted into the game by his peers. Prior to the Nats’ 7-4 loss to the Royals on Friday night, Rendon met with manager Dave Martinez and other team officials, and they came to what Martinez called a “organization decision” to have Rendon sit out of the game and spend the break recovering.
"I am honored to be able to be chosen, especially being a player vote, that my peers have that respect for me and I appreciate it a lot,” Rendon said. “But since the game really doesn’t mean too much at the moment, except for personal reasons, we have bigger fish to fry here in D.C. So we’re trying to get everyone healthy and I’m a part of that as well, so I want to be a big threat for the second half.”
The Nationals organization has been touting Rendon as an All-Star for several seasons and people around the team have been stunned that he wasn’t named an All-Star much earlier in his career. And after years of being overlooked, Rendon was finally recognized this season after putting together the best first half of his career.
Rendon is batting .304/.389/.615 with 20 home runs, the fastest that he’s reached that mark in his career. Rendon has not only been one of the best players in his division, but one of the best in the entire NL. He entered Friday ranked sixth in the NL with 3.4 Wins Above Replacement, per Fangraphs, with a 156 wRC+ that was the fifth best in the NL.
And yet there have been a few times throughout the past few weeks where Rendon has appeared to playing at less than 100 percent, especially when he has noticeably failed to run out a few grounders.
"It's no concern," he said. "I know how to ease up, and I've played through injuries before. It's nothing significant, but be smart about it because we still have the whole next half of the season to worry about."
Despite the injury, Rendon has continued to play everyday.
Friday was his 53rd consecutive start since coming off the injured list on May 7 with a bruised elbow. His production has not suffered during that span, but the four days off for the All-Star break represent his lone opportunity to rest before the second half begins.
"It's definitely feeling better,” Rendon said. “I mean, I can’t lie about that. But it's definitely not over that hump, per se. And I know if I had these next four days, it would kind of get me there and I'd be running to first base. Put it that way. And I'd be running from first to home, and kind of being the player that I need to be.”
So Rendon will take the extra time during the break to recover, away from the extra attention that comes with the All-Star Game. Scherzer, meanwhile, is on perhaps the best roll of his career -- 0.84 ERA and 94 strikeouts with nine walks in his last nine starts.
But in reality, Rendon also made his feelings about the All-Star Game -- and all the extra spotlight that comes with it -- clear for some time. Near the end of May, when asked about the prospect of being an All-Star for the first time ever, he responded with a laugh and said, “I’d love to be an All-Star, without going.”