Washington Nationals: Howie Kendrick’s great start

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 13: Howie Kendrick
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 13: Howie Kendrick /

When the Washington Nationals needed a fill-in for Daniel Murphy, Howie Kendrick returned. He has done wonders while Murphy heals.

The Washington Nationals expected much from Howie Kendrick.

The veteran re-signed with Washington in the off-season after a successful stint following a trade with the Philadelphia Phillies last summer. In staying with Washington, he was to play a utility bench role or carry the load at second for the injured Daniel Murphy.

Kendrick won the starting fill job over Wilmer Difo this spring. However, Kendrick’s ability to excel in the role is a minor surprise.

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Although Washington misses Murphy’s presence in the lineup, Kendrick has eight extra-base hits and 10 singles in 15 games. He carries a healthy slash line of .300/.333/.500. His .833 OPS gives him a 128 OPS+, tying him with Pedro Severino as second on the starting lineup.

You can argue Kendrick should hit behind Bryce Harper at four, but Kendrick’s spot as a table setter works. His six doubles lead the team and ranks ninth in the National League. Those two homers place him in a four-way tie for second in the club.

Kendrick is not Murphy, but his impression is spot on. With 30 total bases, only Harper’s 42 is higher in DC.

At 34, Kendrick is at the point where second base every day is a defensive challenge. Of the nine errors charged to the Nats, he accounts for four. Those pleading for him to stay and Murphy to replace Ryan Zimmerman at first are trading an offensive for a defensive problem.

But, he can get time in at first and left field if the injury bug continues biting. When Murphy can return to the lineup, Kendrick will spell him early as Murphy continues to play himself into regular season shape.

This is the perfect option to have hanging around on the bench. Versatile players with major productivity do not grow on trees. Kendrick’s value to Washington goes beyond the box score. Over his 13 seasons, his teams reached the playoffs seven years.

As Washington works out of their early season slump, Kendrick’s production in the lineup and the clubhouse is a factor. As the battery of newer players adjust to life at the major-league level, he brings a calming presence and production backing it.

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Kendrick’s deal keeps him in DC through the 2019 season. Whatever transition happens when this year ends, he is in place to help guide the Nats and you through it. He wants to be here, and that is a good thing.