CARY, N.C.—Three Team USA pitchers threw a combined no-hitter in a 3-0 win against Korea on Wednesday at the USA Baseball National Training Center, but the mood on the field after the game was somber. That's because Team USA lost its biggest star, BA's College Player of the Year Anthony Rendon, to a severe ankle injury.
Rendon, a rising junior third baseman for Rice, singled in the first inning but was caught in a rundown between first and second base after a pickoff throw. He attempted to cut back toward first base to avoid a tag, and his right leg appeared to get caught underneath him. He winced, then rolled onto his chest and pounded the ground a few times with his right hand.
Team USA first-base coach Ed Blankmeyer, the first person to reach Rendon, said after the game that Rendon's foot was bent at an unnatural angle, and it was apparent immediately that the injury was serious. He was carted off the field and taken by ambulance to a local hospital for X-rays. UPDATE: Team USA officially announced this afternoon that Rendon has a fracture-dislocation of his right ankle and will miss the rest of the summer. He will return to Houston on Friday.
The injury is to the same ankle that Rendon injured in the 2009 Baton Rouge Super Regional, sidelining him for the entire summer. But there was no fracture last year—he tore two ligaments in his ankle while chasing a popup in foul territory.
Renowned foot specialist Dr. Tom Clanton performed the surgery to repair Rendon's ankle injury last year, and Rice coach Wayne Graham said Thursday morning that Clanton will operate on Rendon again this year, either in Houston or in Vail, Colo., where he is based. Clanton is the same doctor who operated on Rockets center Yao Ming's foot, and Graham said he also performed Graham's own knee operation years ago.
"The good thing is the guy we're dealing with is supposed tob e one of the best foot and ankle people in the world," Graham said. "We'll have to be optimistic, and we'll have to do everything right. I've known Tom for 20 years, and he's a great, great doctor. Sometimes you just have to place your trust in the experts."
Graham said Rendon's injury was "heartbreaking."
"I think it's important in many ways that we do this right, not just to Anthony but to baseball," Graham said. "He's a young man that has a chance to be a credit to the game and a pleasure to a lot of people—you, me, the country. Maybe I'm overplaying this, but I'm just crazy about Anthony."
Overshadowed by the Rendon injury, three USA pitchers combined to strike out 13 in their no-hitter in their second game of the summer. Vanderbilt righthander Sonny Gray started and whiffed nine over six sterling innings, walking two. Texas Christian righty Kyle Winkler followed with two innings, retiring six of the seven batters he faced, and Cal State Fullerton righty struck out the side in order in a dominating ninth.
It was the second straight year that Team USA threw a combined no-hitter at its Cary complex. On July 2, 2009, four USA pitchers combined on a no-hitter against Guatemala, led by Gerrit Cole, who struck out 11 over 5 2/3 innings.
But Rendon was the big story Wednesday. He was replaced at third base by Clemson shortstop Brad Miller, who played flawless defense at the hot corner for the remainder of the game. The Team USA coaches said after the game that they will look into bringing another third baseman onto the roster in the next few days to replace Rendon, who was the only third baseman invited to trials. The team was built around him—the best player in college baseball—and he will not be easy to replace.
"It's awful," Team USA head coach Bill Kinneberg (Utah) said this morning. "I'm really, really, really sad for the kid. And sad for us because he's a heck of a kid and I was looking forward to being around him all summer."
Graham said he only hopes Rendon's surgery and rehabilitation go well and that he'll be ready to play by the start of the 2011 season.
"As long as we're careful, I've been led to believe it's going to take some time but everything will work out in the end," Graham said. "We'll all be praying for that."
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