Renda Plays Hard

TRENTON, NJ - Tony Renda spent the first three years of his career in the Washington Nationals farm system until he was traded to the Yankees for the struggling David Carpenter on June 11th. He was then assigned to Double-A Trenton to start his new life as a member of the Yankees and has been a starter at second base for most of the time there.

Renda is happy to not just be a part of the organization, and even more so of the fact that he’s playing for the Trenton Thunder.

“I love it here,” Renda said. “Great organization, great guys. The skipper is awesome. I don’t think I’ve ever played for a manager who handles [it] so well in my entire career. I’m excited to go out to the field every day so I can spend time with the team. Just having a chance to talk these players and coaches are great because they’re so knowledgeable.”

Renda was playing in the Eastern League prior to the trade. He he was hitting .267 for the Harrisburg Senators before coming over and so far in 21 games with the Thunder he has a .240 batting average, a .341 on-base percentage and three stolen bases. But the number that some people are paying attention is the nine defensive errors already as a member of the Thunder.

That’s a rather large amount of mistakes for such an important position and Thunder manager Al Pedrique has said that Renda’s throwing is a factor to his defensive slump.

“We know he’s been having some issues with his throwing, but it’s not a major concern because that’s the one thing he’s been working real hard since the trade,” Pedrique said. “He’s been very positive about it, and the only way he’s going to get out of the slump with his throwing is to play every day.”

But it isn’t just his throwing that has been plaguing him on the defensive side. He’s made nine errors in Trenton [16 errors all season long], but he has been prone to making some errors in judgement in terms of positioning and being in synch with his new teammates. Renda recognizes the errors, but doesn’t think too much about it.

“Errors are a part of the game,” Renda said. “Come out and watch me during batting practice, I work my butt off every day. I don’t take my work lightly. If errors happen, they happen. I need to control what I control and take care of my work.”

But all is not lost on Renda’s defensive skills. While yes, his throwing and consistency at second base leave a lot to be desired recently, he is a very athletic player that on occasion is able to make great plays, like a big diving catch he made at second base in the 10th inning against New Hampshire on June 29th. He may not have been able to get the throw to first base to get the out, but the play does show that it is not too late for him to get better and be an adequate defensive second baseman.

As for his bat, Renda doesn’t show a lot of home run power, if at all. His strength comes from hitting the gaps and getting on base. While it’s not the same as working with big power hitters such as Aaron Judge [who was recently promoted to Triple-A Scranton], Eric Jagielo, or a Gary Sanchez, Thunder hitting coach PJ Piliterre sees value in working with a guy like Renda.

“It’s all about fine-tuning his game,” Piliterre said. "You can always unleash a little bit more power in every one of these guys, but at the same time, a guy like him, it would be foolish for us to say ‘we’re going to make you a 40-homer a year guy.’ No, we want to fine-tune his game, which is gap to gap, keeping balls down the line, hitting balls hard, getting on base.”

Renda, so far has shown average contact and power and even though it’s not impressive, he’s most dangerous when he’s able to get on base and steal bases, a luxury that this Thunder team doesn’t really have all that much aside from a few players that steal regularly.

When looking at a player like Renda, it’s hard to look at the skills he possesses - solid base running with 19 total stolen bases this year, good gap to gap hitting power, and a strong work ethic- when he still has some issues throwing the ball, is not fully consistent as a defensive second baseman, and is not carrying a lot of big time power in his bat. The coaching staff, however, want to remain optimistic about their newly acquired talent.

While the organization may still be trying to figure out where the former 2nd round pick fits into their long-term plan, Renda still carries potential to be a Major League player in the future. Piliterre sees Renda’s skills as an asset for a Major League player and is working with him to play to his strengths.

“If he’s going to play in the big leagues, he’s going to have to get on base and score a lot of runs,” Piliterre. “He’s going to steal the bag for you when you need to. He’s going to give you quality at-bats. That’s the kind of things that we’ll do with a player like Tony as opposed to a player like an Aaron Judge or a Greg Bird.

"He’s a hard-nosed guy. Plays the game insanely hard. He’s a type of guy that always wants to get better, and prepares well.”

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