Updated at 6:33 p.m.
PHILADELPHIA — Just when it looked like Anthony Rendon was finding his groove at the plate, the Nationals’ dynamic infielder finds himself back in an all-too-familiar place: the disabled list.
Rendon was placed on the 15-day DL Friday with a strained left quadriceps muscle, the latest physical ailment to derail his season. The Nationals purchased the contract of infielder (and D.C. native) Emmanuel Burriss to take Rendon’s spot on the active roster, with outfielder Reed Johnson transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a spot on the organization’s 40-man roster for Burriss.
Rendon’s latest placement on the DL comes with the Nationals’ lineup in a state of disarray. Bryce Harper (right hamstring) and Denard Span (back spasms) each were held out of Friday night’s series opener against the Phillies, with Jayson Werth (fractured wrist) and Ryan Zimmerman (plantar fasciitis) already on the DL.
The Nationals decided to make the move with Rendon six days after he initially hurt his left thigh while running out a double during the sixth inning of Max Scherzer’s no-hitter against the Pirates. Rendon said he didn’t want to leave that game, given the historic nature of what was taking place but also because he didn’t think the strain was serious at the time.
“I wasn’t going to come out during that deal,” he said. “It would’ve been bad on my part. So I stayed in. … I was just thinking: It happened to me before. It felt different, but I’ll probably just roll it out. That’s why I kept playing the next couple days. You all probably saw I was favoring it a little bit.”
Indeed, Rendon didn’t look 100 percent for several days, mostly in the field, where he was unable to reach a few hard-hit grounders at second base. He said the injury doesn’t bother him while hitting, though, so he’ll be able to continue swinging even while on the DL and try to maintain the recent groove he found at the plate (he had eight hits in his last 15 at-bats).
This is Rendon’s third significant injury of the season; he opened the year on the DL with a sprained left knee, then strained his left oblique muscle while on a minor-league rehab assignment. All told, he has played in only 18 games this year, a significant blow to the Nationals.
“They’re isolated,” manager Matt Williams said of Rendon’s injuries. “It’s not anything we can put a finger on. And I don’t know if anybody could. It’s just a question of getting him healthy and getting him back. We certainly want him post All-Star break to be ready to go and continue the rest of the season.”
The Nationals might be able to withstand Rendon’s absence if they can keep the rest of their lineup intact. That wasn’t the case Friday night, with both Harper and Span sidelined with nagging ailments.
Harper was held out for the second straight day with a strained right hamstring, suffered when the star outfielder legged out an 11th-inning double Wednesday night against the Braves. Harper did receive an MRI, which Williams said came back “pretty good,” but the club won’t rush the 22-year-old slugger back before he’s ready.
“He’s better today,” Williams said. “It’s still a little tight. We’ll keep him out at least another day, make sure he’s good to go when he gets back out there. We don’t want to take any chances, for sure.”
Span, meanwhile, was in the original lineup Friday but was scratched when the back spasms that plagued him earlier this month reoccurred during batting practice.
Rendon’s DL stint did open the door for Burriss to return to a major-league roster for the first time since 2012, when he played for the Giants. This call-up is particularly significant for the 30-year-old infielder, both because he has spent the last three seasons in the minors but also because he now gets to play for his hometown club.
A Washington native and Wilson High School alum, Burriss is the first product of the D.C. public school system to reach the big leagues since Dodgers legend Maury Wills.
“It’s huge,” said Burriss, who was hitting .278 with a .354 on-base percentage at Syracuse. “Being in D.C., being with the Nationals, is big. I think anybody wants to play close to home. Me still having family, me still living in D.C. in the offseason, is a big reason that I was so excited to sign back with the Nationals this offseason after playing the full year at Triple-A. … To actually be here with the Nationals and be going home, it’s great.”