“I was gonna push myself to try to come back as soon as possible,” Rendon said during the Angels’ penultimate homestand against the Seattle Mariners. “Whether we’re in the hunt, whether we weren’t in the hunt.
“I think that’s still a possibility.”
A return this season, which has 16 games remaining after Sunday’s 5-1 win over the Mariners, is not certain. Rendon had surgery to repair the tendon in June, which had an estimated recovery time of four to six months. If he does get activated from the injured list, he’ll have his five-game suspension — from the Angels-Mariners brawl — to serve first.
Dealing with that suspension this year would mean the third baseman could start his 2023 season without that additional hurdle.
“He’s still progressing,” athletic trainer Mike Frostad said in his latest update of Rendon this weekend. “Our goal for him is to be healthy going into next season and to have a normal offseason. If he gets to play this year, it’s a bonus, but we haven’t laid anything out that’s going to be in that type of time range.”
Interim manager Phil Nevin said recently that Rendon’s advances in his rehabilitation were surprising.
“He’s doing a lot of things on the field that we weren’t sure he was gonna get to at this point,” Nevin said on Sept. 6.
He was cleared to start taking ground balls and lightly toss balls from about five feet in the middle of August. Earlier this month, he added throwing across the length of the infield and hitting in the batting cages to his progression.
“I think we’re progressing each day trying to do more,” Rendon said of his rehab. “Try to break up all that junk that’s been tight for so long after surgery because [my wrist] was immobile. … If it hurts the next day, then it means we did too much. We haven’t had those days yet. Hopefully it just continues to go that way.”
Rendon started feeling discomfort in his wrist during his third at-bat of the Angels’ May 8 game with the Washington Nationals. He was put on the injured list at the end of the month, returned on June 10, and played in four games before his wrist problem proved too much for him to continue playing. He was scheduled for the surgery to repair the tendon the next week.
It was the second time in two years that his season would be cut short because of a significant injury. In 2021, he suffered a season-ending hip injury. His biggest challenge of the rehab process this time around has been a mental one.
“Mainly just because this is the second year in a row,” Rendon said. “Nobody likes being hurt, but for the fact this was two years in a row, I think it’s been the biggest part for me, just trying to handle that, trying to stay mentally prepared, mentally strong.
“Just the fact that, you know, it’s out of my hands. These are the cards I’ve been dealt. [So it’s been] how do I stay positive throughout the entire day.”
Rendon knew when he decided to get the surgery that the possibility of a return before the end of the 2022 season would have a small window. A potential comeback wouldn’t be good just for dealing with a suspension and being able to close out the season in games, but for peace of mind.
“That’s why I’m trying to come back to play at least before the season’s end,” Rendon said. “So just for the mental aspect of it, saying that ‘Alright, I came back, I was playing in games. Now. I’m going into the offseason to get stronger, just to kind of rejuvenate, to get prepared for next season.’
“It’s not necessarily like last year, going into the offseason to rehab to get strength back up to try to feel normal again,” he continued. “If I get into a game then alright, that’s my normal, I’m gonna go back to playing. I think that’s going to be the big key.”
As for what the offseason might look like, Rendon, like most major league players in a more typical season, likes to take a break and decompress. This offseason might be different.
“I may continue baseball activities from October and on, might not be as rigorous but just to kind of get the feeling of everything, not lose anything,” Rendon said. “I think it’s gonna be a little bit different. So we’ll just kind of play by ear when I get back home.”
It’s outta here
Luis Rengifo’s bat has been hotter than ever this weekend. But his bat wasn’t the only one launching balls over the fence on Sunday. Joining Rengifo’s home run party was Livan Soto, his friend and fellow Venezuelan who trained with Rengifo in the offseason.
Rengifo had his second career multi-home run game on Sunday, after having his first just two games prior.
“I can't believe it,” Rengifo said after the Angels' win. “I don't try to hit homers. I'm trying to hit the ball and the ball carried and just, I'm so happy for that.”
Soto was called up Saturday and not only had his first major league hit, a single in the third, but also hit his first home run on Sunday.
“I think that every baseball player that dreams of getting to the big leagues dreams of getting that first hit to relax them a little bit,” Soto said in Spanish. “Then after the home run, running the bases my legs were shaking. But I’m very happy.”
Asked whether he knew his hit in the seventh would be a home run, Soto said, “I think so because it left the bat really fast.”
Both his first hit and his home run balls were returned to him after the game.
“It’s just so special,” Rengifo said of Soto. “I’m so happy for him and what he did today.”
Soto knew when he got into the clubhouse on Saturday that he would eventually play, but didn’t know he would get to start. He made his debut Saturday as a pinch-runner, staying in the game at shortstop and getting one at bat.
And when Nevin told him after Saturday’s game that he would be starting on Sunday, he was surprised.
“I had no words to express my excitement,” Soto said. “I was very emotional. All I said was thank you. I then called my parents to let them know I was going to start.”
And he did not let that first start go to waste. After getting back into the dugout after hitting his home run, he was celebrated accordingly, with the other players adorning his head with the Angel cowboy hat and splashing his face with water when he reached the end of the high five line. After the game, during his on-field interview, he was given a Gatorade and water bath.
“I think that the only thing I want to do right now is to help the team, do things simple and things will happen how they are supposed to happen,” Soto said of his plan moving forward. “I don’t want to put pressure on myself, just let things happen and help the team the best I can.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.