Since making his major league debut in 2019, Fernando Tatis Jr. has favored pink accessories to highlight his uniform. Pink accessories such as shoelaces, sweatbands, belts, headbands and shoes are often used. It’s a signal that his mother is always in his head when he’s playing the game.
In the bottom of the fourth inning in San Diego on Saturday night, he stood out as he sprinted across the right field lawn, hopping to his fullest extent, and reaching out at the last minute to stab a rocket. was a pink glove. air. With two on and two out, Boston’s Triston Casas launched a screaming drive into the outfield wall at an exit speed of 178 mph. It sailed over Tatis’ head…until it stopped.
Bats, grabs, celebrations, and more, Tatis, the 24-year-old superstar whose career has spiraled out of control in so many ways, is back to business as usual.
“It’s every day now,” said manager Bob Melvin, marveling at Tatis and his penchant for breathtaking play. “Give him a few practice sessions and he will be able to play any position in any sport.”
After returning to the major leagues on April 20 after two surgeries and an 80-game suspension for testing positive for steroids, Tatis hasn’t played in a Major League Baseball game for over a year. The anticipation for his return was immense, but so were the questions.
How much has his game faded by being away for over a year? Will the surgical repair of his left shoulder, which has dislocated several times in 2021, diminish his ability at bat? Could things finally turn around after a second surgery on his right wrist, which was broken in a motorcycle accident in the Dominican Republic?
Then there was the question of additional luggage. After public shaming and subsequent punishment involving a positive test for the anabolic steroid Clostebol, how will Tatis deal with the spotlight during his return? was it?
“It won’t be easy,” Tatis said during a conversation at the Padres clubhouse over the weekend. “This is probably the hardest game in the world.
Biggest bet in Padres history — 14-year total for Tatis in just 143 major league games as he faces perhaps the toughest test yet in terms of public scrutiny as the Padres travel to Yankee Stadium this weekend. A $340 million contract – floats. Get back on track to pay dividends. The young star has risen to the occasion once again, and those around the Padres are talking about his grace and newfound humility.
“He was definitely to blame,” said San Diego ace starter Joe Musgrove. “And it started about 80 games ago. After the suspension, he had a few weeks of stagnation, which was to be expected. But he’s done a good job of getting through it. He’s a player. , the coaching staff and the fans, he has forgiven himself and worked through his mistakes.
“Some mistakes you can’t fix. Some things you can do. He can do it.”
Musgrove’s tone when discussing Tatis’ behavior since his suspension was markedly different from that of the past two seasons, amid daily tensions between Tatis, his teammates and the Padres coaching staff. Questions about the dugout match and Tatis’ maturity have been put to rest, at least for now, as he stays out of trouble and prepares for his return.
According to Tatis, a large part of that preparation had to do with the mental side of the match. He knew there would be a lot of noise from opponents and rival fans trying to find a weak spot. Over the winter, he said he spent meaningful time “enjoying conversations about baseball with good baseball buddies.” “I feel like it all rolled into one.”
According to Tatis, the conversation began with his father, Fernando Tatis Sr., who played in the majors from 1997-2010. At his home in the Dominican Republic, Tatis Jr. also conversed with coaches like Wilton Bellas, who played briefly. With the Red Sox and his friend Robinson Cano, a former major league star who has been suspended twice for performance-enhancing drugs.
“It’s always nice to talk to that guy about baseball,” Tatis said of Kano. “There are many more players on the list, but if we start mentioning them all, we probably won’t be done today.”
The Padres brought Tatis to Fanfest in early February, and to check one box in particular early on, it was his return to the public eye. Petco Park had a friendly local crowd, and it served its purpose well. Even if the suspension wasn’t complete, he was able to step out of the penalty box and focus fully on baseball from now on.
Without Tatis in his first 182 games as Padres manager, Melvin was thrilled to have the young star in his lineup.
“It was really a day of celebration for both of us,” Melvin said. “He sat by my side for a long time, and in fact he was one of the reasons I came here.”
Tatis, who said hitting was the hardest part of his comeback, went 0-for-5 in his first game, but had at least one in each of his next nine games. Overall, he batted .267 with seven home runs by Tuesday, falling short of his peak standards, but regularly showing flashes of his old self.
On the night of his sensational catch against Boston, Tatis hit Chris Sale’s slider from 440 feet to record his first back-to-back home run in nearly two years. Four nights earlier, he had shown his new-found comfort in the outfield, landing a perfect 96.8 mph strike from right field on the spot and trying to go from first to third on a single in Kansas City. ‘s Vinny Pascantino nailed it.
Tatis, who entered the majors as an error-prone but exciting shortstop, is the only outfielder in the league this season to record two assists at 96+ mph. He threw Carlos Correa at home on May 10 against Minnesota. 160 mph laser.
Boston manager Alex Cora said, “It’s a hot game,” and the Red Sox have “the most complete players of the last three weeks” in Tatis, Atlanta’s Ronald Acuna Jr. and Seattle’s Julio Rodriguez. “Three of us were in the game,” he said. .
Tatis joining such a group was expected after finishing fourth in 2020 and third in 2021 in National League Most Valuable Player voting. But Cora gave his praise to the player who has been out for more than a year amid many questions about his future. Demonstrated how many fences Tatis repaired.
“Overall, I just don’t understand how anyone can do a better job and deal with it faster than him,” Melvin said of Tatis’ return to fame.
The public reaction, though jarring at times, did not upset Tatis.
When he hit a home run during a Class AAA rehab mission in early April, the pitcher he hit, Giants minor leaguer Cade McClure, said, “Crooks hit a home run on a steroid suspension rehab mission.” I tweeted and responded. Tatis ignored the deleted message. He said he expects that kind of reaction and that he will continue to play the game and enjoy it.
True to his word, a Wrigley Field fan serenaded him with chants of “He’s on steroids!”Tatis disarmed them playful shimmy.
“I can’t say I would have acted that way,” said center fielder Trent Grisham. “But smiling usually spreads hostility.”
Melvin added: “He’s kind of the ultimate entertainer, isn’t he? When it comes to baseball.”
Another counselor for Tatis is teammate Nelson Cruz. He is eyeing his return after being suspended for 50 games for performance-enhancing drugs in 2013. Cruz advised Tatis to be himself and just go play.
That’s what Tatis did early in his career, and his flair quickly rose him to celebrity status, trailing only Dodgers’ Mookie Betts. jersey sale During the 2021 season. Whether or not Tatis can regain that level of popularity remains to be seen, but after just over a month he seems to be heading in the right direction.
“I don’t want to be selfish,” he said when asked for an early self-assessment about his game. “Obviously, things are going well.
Reaction to his first visit to Dodger Stadium this month has been remarkably muted — the animosity there remains largely directed at Padres infielder Manny Machado — but Tatis has made his mark on his visit to Yankee Stadium this weekend. When asked for a view, he smiled.
“It’s going to be good,” he said. “Let’s see. New York. The good thing is there will be a lot of Dominicans there. That’s the positive side. But this is still New York.”
He laughed as he spoke, but behind him the various pink ornaments from the lockers almost gleamed. The 24-year-old wants to get his career back on track and experience whatever Yankee Stadium has to offer.