Nationals cautious with sore Rendon

JUPITER, Fla. -- Third baseman Anthony Rendon's availability for the Washington Nationals' season opener is in doubt after a second MRI on his injured left knee failed to reveal the progress that he or the team had hoped for, manager Matt Williams told reporters Wednesday.

"Opening Day is in jeopardy at this point, because he simply hasn't had the baseball activity to get ready,'' Williams said. "Does that mean he's not ready for Opening Day, but ready four days later? Potentially. We just don't know at this point.

"It's a tricky injury, because the MRI shows no structural damage, per se. But it's something you use every day. It's on the right track. It's just a question of when he can get through the soreness and get back to [playing].''

Rendon, 24, enjoyed a breakthrough season with Washington in 2014. He led the National League with 111 runs scored, won a Silver Slugger Award at third base and finished fifth in NL Most Valuable Player balloting.

A sprained MCL in his left knee has limited Rendon to three games and nine at-bats in the Grapefruit League this spring. He hasn't appeared in a game since March 9 because of the injury.

If the Nationals place Rendon on the disabled list, he'll miss Opening Day against the New York Mets on April 6. But the Nationals can backdate the assignment to March 27 -- 10 days before the opener. So Rendon could return in time for Washington's second series in Philadelphia.

The Nationals could be missing their Nos. 1-2-3 hitters to start the season. Leadoff man and center fielder Denard Span is expected to be out until early May after surgery to repair a torn abdominal muscle, and right fielder and No. 3 hitter Jayson Werth is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery.

Danny Espinosa, Ian Stewart and Kevin Frandsen are Washington's third-base options if Rendon opens the season on the DL.

Williams said the Nationals will give Rendon all the time he needs to return to full strength.

"What I don't want is him limping into the season and continuing to limp all year and being frustrated by that,'' Williams said. "We need to get him better, and once he's better, we can let him go and play the way he's capable of playing.''