One week from Thursday, Fernando Tatis Jr. will return to the San Diego Padres upon the completion of his 80-game performance-enhancing drug suspension. Tatis has not played in an MLB game since the final game of the 2021 season.
Because he is also coming back from shoulder surgery and a pair of wrist surgeries, Tatis is allowed to play in minor-league rehab games before rejoining the Padres, and he certainly looks healthy. On Thursday night, Tatis went 5 for 6 with a double and three home runs for San Diego's Triple-A affiliate, the El Paso Chihuahuas (ELP 19, ABQ 6). He drove in eight runs.
Statcast measured Tatis' first home run at 451 feet. The next two were a mere 418 feet and 362 feet, respectively. Here are the videos:
Tatis entered play Thursday with a .353/.522/.588 batting line with one homer, six walks and two strikeouts in five Triple-A games. The three-homer game lifted his slash line to a stout .478/.586/1.087. That's what happens when a superstar big leaguer spends a few days in the minors.
It should be noted Tatis has played right field in all six Triple-A games. That is his new position. The Padres signed Xander Bogaerts to a massive 11-year contract in the offseason, so shortstop is taken. Right field is likely Tatis' best position anyway because he was prone to erratic throws at short, plus he can use his speed to run balls down in the outfield.
Tatis, who turned 24 in January, slashed .282/.364/.611 with 25 stolen bases and a National League-leading 42 home runs in only 130 games around shoulder trouble in 2021. For his career, Tatis is a .292/.369/.596 hitter with 81 home runs and 13.6 WAR in only 273 games.
San Diego went 89-73 and advanced to the NLCS without Tatis last season. They entered play Thursday with a 7-6 record on the young season.