SD@WSH: Rendon hits a two-run double to center field

HOUSTON -- Homecomings are fairly common for Major League ballplayers. But a triple-digit ticket count for your crew during that homecoming? That's taking it to another level.

That's the kind of support Nationals infielder and Houston-area native Anthony Rendon has during Washington's two-game set against the Astros at Minute Maid Park.

"Maybe even 200 [tickets]," Rendon said. "I got friends, family, people from my mom's work -- you name it, they'll be here. My dad coordinated all of it, and the head count got pretty high."

Rendon grew up in the southwest suburbs of Houston but eventually played high school ball at Lamar High School in the heart of Houston. He hit .570 in his senior season, garnering a 27th-round selection from the Braves.

He turned that down to attend Rice, where he wrote his name all over the record books, became the first underclassman to win Baseball America's Player of the Year Award, and even got his own "Anthony Rendon Day," as declared by Houston's mayor.

Clearly, Houston is home for Rendon, who started Tuesday's game at third base. He spent Monday's off-day with his family, swimming and sharing a family dinner with relatives in town from as far away as West Virginia.

"Just being in an environment I'm used to is the best," Rendson said. "I know every back road, every street, pretty much. When you go to other cities, you have to worry about taxi drivers taking the right way to the park and those things. It's comfortable here."

Rendon still lives in Houston during the offseason, and said he maintains relationships with Robbie Grossman -- who is at Triple-A Oklahoma City right now -- and Team USA comrade George Springer, the highly touted recent Astros callup.

"I know they're excited about the future down here," Rendon said. "I'm just excited to play against them in Minute Maid, where I grew up coming. This is pretty special."

Mattheus' callup sooner than righty expected

Ryan Mattheus joined the Nats' bullpen for Tuesday's series opener.

HOUSTON -- Ryan Mattheus didn't think he belonged in Triple-A ball, but he also didn't expect to be back with the Nationals so soon.

The righty got the call back up sooner than expected due to Taylor Jordan's inconsistency, and the club's preference for more relief pitchers, given Washington's relative plethora of off-days and the fatigued bullpen.

"Yeah, it did [surprise me]," Mattheus said. "It caught me off-guard. You try not to predict when the call's coming, because it's just counterproductive for your performance."

Mattheus said he was initially frustrated at spending time in Syracuse after missing most of Spring Training with chest inflammation. Though the results don't indicate he was a lock-down pitcher there, he said the time in the Minors was necessary.

"Spring Training was tough, so it probably was the best thing for me to go [to Syracuse]. At the time, I didn't really embrace it, but I needed the workload. Everybody else broke camp with 12, 13, 14 appearances. I needed to build back up."

Mattheus allowed six runs in 10 innings of work with Syracuse, but said the numbers don't reflect how his arm and stuff feel on the mound.

"The velocity was good, the arm felt great, but the results were mixed," he said. "Wasn't happy with the numbers, and they were a little misleading. The work I put in was more important than the actual numbers."

Mattheus' callup story was certainly an unusual one. He didn't even finish his Sunday outing, getting ejected after one pitch -- that didn't even hit the batter -- before receiving the summons to join the Nationals in Houston a few hours later.

"The night before, we had a few guys thrown at, and we were issued warnings and we didn't retaliate or anything," he said. "I pitched the eighth inning against this unbelievable talent, Gregory Polanco. … You can get him out with a sinker, but have to throw in on him.

"I threw one inside, and he was diving in. He didn't go down or anything, and it was almost over the plate. Then I got tossed. That was just wild. I went from that, feeling kind of incredulous, to being back up here."

Nats to keep rotation steady until Fister returns

MIA@WSH: Fister strikes out Angle on three pitches

HOUSTON -- Washington manager Matt Williams said the team is targeting May 7 as the date for Doug Fister's return start, and he hopes to keep the Nationals' rotation "steady" in the next 10 days.

The Nationals have two off-days this week, so Williams said they might be able to get away with a four-man rotation until next Wednesay, when Fister could theoretically be available.

The Nationals sent down Taylor Jordan to Triple-A Syracuse on Sunday and called up Ryan Mattheus, leaving Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Tanner Roark as the only full-time starters left on the 25-man roster for the time being.

"With the off-days, we have a chance with Doug coming back to insert him into the rotation," Williams said. "Given that likelihood, we felt it important to add an extra bullpen guy, and work out that rotation as we go."

Fister suffered a lat strain late in Spring Training and has been on the disabled list all season. While Williams said he hopes to keep the same order in the rotation, that's contingent on Fister feeling healthy in his final rehab start on Friday.

"Obviously, we need to see how [Doug] does in his last rehab start, and have him feel good about it for this timetable to stick," Williams said. "If that happens, we're looking at [May] 7th, maybe the 8th. He's close."