San Diego Padres star Fernando Tatis Jr. and was in manager Bob Melvin's lineup, batting leadoff and manning right field, for their eventual 7-5 win over the first-place Arizona Diamondbacks. Tatis went hitless in five trips to the plate, but his return means the San Diego lineup is at full strength for the first time in a long time. In the field, Tatis made an impressive ranging catch in the late innings.
Tatis in December of 2021 suffered a broken wrist that was the result of a motorcycle accident, and he was sidelined as he recovered from surgery to repair that fracture. In August of last year, not long after Tatis had begun his minor-league rehab assignment, he was hit with an 80-game suspension pursuant to a positive test for a performance-enhancing banned substance. While suspended, he underwent unrelated shoulder surgery and then a second procedure on his wrist. Add it all up, and Tatis on Thursday night will play in a major-league game for the first time since the last day of the 2021 season – 565 days ago, to be exact.
Accordingly, Tatis not long before first pitch addressed the media in a pregame setting for the first time in just as long. "Kinda like my debut in the big leagues," Tatis told reporters, including A.J. Cassavell. "It's kind of those nerves again. I'm just happy to be here. Grateful for the chance. And like I said we've got a long way to go. I can't wait to contribute, to be with my teammates and to be in that jungle."
Tatis' return to "that jungle" is of course a welcome one for the Padres. Even though they have plenty of star power in the lineup, what with the likes of Juan Soto, Manny Machado, and Xander Bogaerts already in place, San Diego entered Thursday night's game ranking just 12th in the National League in runs scored and 13th in OPS.
As for the 24-year-old Tatis, he brings to the surprisingly listless San Diego attack a sparkling career slash line of .292/.369/.596 with 81 home runs and 522 stolen bases in 273 career games. He's in the third year of a 13-year, $340 million contract that he signed in February 2021.
As for his first game action in so long, Tatis when announced for his first plate appearance was greeted with a mixed reception at Chase Field in Phoenix:
In that first plate appearance, Tatis struck out on a 2-2 cutter from Arizona starter Ryne Nelson. Leading off the third, Tatis grounded out to short, but the ball left the bat at an impressive 110.2 mph. He led off again in the fifth and flew out to right a couple of pitches after getting buzzed high and inside on the hands by Nelson. In Tatis' final PA of the night, he notched his second swinging strikeout, this one on a splitter from reliever Scott McGough.
In the field, Tatis, a former shortstop who's transitioned to the outfield, cleanly handled what came his way, but he did overthrow the cutoff man in the D-Backs' big fourth inning, allowing Geraldo Perdomo to take second following his single. In the eighth, however, Tatis made his impact with a sprinting snare of a ball off the bat of Josh Rojas:
If Tatis doesn't make that play, then Rojas is in scoring position with the potential tying run at the plate. Instead, Tatis' catch sent the game to the ninth inning with the Padres still holding a two-run lead -- a lead they held.
With the win, the Padres move to 10-11 on the season.