Fernando Tatis Jr. seems likely to have a new position when he returns to the San Diego Padres lineup over the coming days.
Tatis, currently on the injured list after once again dislocating his shoulder, has begun shagging fly balls in the outfield in preparation for a move off shortstop, according to The Athletic's Dennis Lin. The Padres are hopeful that relocating Tatis to the outfield will help him avoid another shoulder-related injury for the remainder of the season.
"If potentially that is the best way to get him back to play this year, it's something we're serious about exploring and looking into," manager Jayce Tingler said, per Lin.
Tatis, 22, has not played a non-shortstop position during his big-league career. He did see action at both second and third base during his minor-league days, but even those experiences were limited. Nonetheless, the Padres believe Tatis can be a quick study in the outfield. Should that prove to be the case, it'll have a domino effect on their lineup, this year and in the future.
The Padres have been trotting out an outfield of Tommy Pham, Trent Grisham, and Wil Myers. It stands to reason that if Tatis slots in either in center or in right, then Pham -- who has the worst offensive numbers of the three current starters -- would be the one heading to the bench. On the infield, meanwhile, the Padres have settled into starting middle infield that has Jake Cronenworth at shortstop and recent acquisition Adam Frazier at second.
There had been a belief within the industry that the Padres would consider sliding Tatis to the outfield ahead of next spring as a means of improving their defense and creating a slot for top prospect C.J. Abrams, who recently suffered a fractured tibia that ended his season.
Wherever Tatis plays, the Padres will be happy to have his bat back in the lineup. On the year, he's hit .292/.373/.651 (179 OPS+) with 31 home runs and 23 steals in 87 games.