[Updated 5:18 p.m.]
Anthony Rendon's long, once-interrupted rehab from a pair of injuries has finally ended. The Nationals have activated the 24-year-old infielder off the disabled list, and he will make his 2015 debut Thursday night against the Cubs.
Rendon will bat second in the Nationals' lineup.
"I had a frustrating few months, but I'm happy to be back," he said.
On the heels of a breakthrough 2014 season in which he finished fifth in NL MVP voting, Rendon's 2015 debut comes two months late. He was sidelined first by a sprained MCL in his left knee, an injury that appeared minor when it occurred in early March but proved far more significant than the club originally believed. Then, while nearly finished with a rehab assignment in Harrisburg in late-April, Rendon strained his left oblique muscle, once again delaying his return.
Rendon began a new rehab assignment with Harrisburg last week and played in five games, going 4-for-18 with two doubles and a walk.
"I think we all were [surprised it took so long]. It just happened to be an unfortunate event at the beginning of the season. What can you do?" he said. "There was a little frustration, but everything happens for a reason. I've been put in this position and I just have to go forward from here."
Every inning Rendon spent in the field during this latest rehab stint came at second base, and that's where he will make his season debut Thursday, with Yunel Escobar remaining at third base. That's the opposite of the Nationals' original plan entering spring training, but with Escobar proving adept and more comfortable at third base through the season's first two months, and with Rendon having already proven his ability to play second base, that alignment is likely to become regular for now.
Rendon insists he has no real preference for either position.
"I feel fine. I've always told you I feel most comfortable with a bat in my hand. As long as I'm out here to help the team," he said.
Rendon is still working on his timing both in the field and at the plate. He does, however, have plenty of experience with injuries dating back to his days at Rice University.
"I think fortunately and unfortunately I've been through this situation before, so I know how to handle it. I guess I've done pretty well in the past with handling injuries. I think I handled it pretty well this time around, too. I'm just happy to be back."
Rendon is not exactly sure when the injury first occurred. He was rehabbing from the knee injury when discomfort in his left oblique gradually began to bother him.
When asked how he sustained the injury, he couldn't cite a specific swing or play: "I think just hitting too many homers. What kind of question is that? I don't know. It just happened."
The 2014 Silver Slugger is just glad the injury is behind him. Now comes the adjustment of trying to help a lineup that has mustered just seven total runs in their last four games.
"You can't expect him to be the catalyst for anything right now, but we're glad to have him back," Matt Williams said. "The fact that he's physically able to play is important to us, and important to him as well. So he feels good. He's got some at-bats. Not ideal amount of at-bats, but nonetheless he's, like we said yesterday, he's a pretty quick study. So we're glad to have him."
Rendon's reinstatement from the 15-day DL was one of a flurry of roster moves the Nationals made Thursday afternoon. Right-hander A.J. Cole was recalled from Class AAA Syracuse, with a chance to start Saturday afternoon's game, while two young players were optioned to the minors: Taylor Jordan (to Syracuse) and Wilmer Difo (to Class AA Harrisburg).