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Tatis Jr. homers again ... in bottom of 9th

Top prospect showing a flair for the dramatic; Strahm, Myers pass early tests; Kinsler singles in first Padres at-bat
@AJCassavell
February 27, 2019

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Two outs. Bottom of the ninth. A one-run deficit against a division rival. The stage was set nicely for Fernando Tatis Jr. on Wednesday afternoon. The 20-year-old shortstop kept his weight back with an offspeed pitch on the outside corner. Then he unleashed a vicious swing, sending

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Two outs. Bottom of the ninth. A one-run deficit against a division rival. The stage was set nicely for Fernando Tatis Jr. on Wednesday afternoon.

The 20-year-old shortstop kept his weight back with an offspeed pitch on the outside corner. Then he unleashed a vicious swing, sending the ball soaring over the left-center-field fence to tie the game.

OK, OK, so it's the Cactus League. It's not precisely the scenario that Padres fans have been envisioning since Tatis -- MLB Pipeline's No. 2 overall prospect -- joined the organization three years ago.

But those moments might not be very far away. Tatis is making a statement this spring, and his home run on Wednesday in a 5-5 tie against Arizona was his second in as many games.

"We know he has power," said manager Andy Green. "He's proven it every single year, and he proved it in the Dominican Republic [this winter]. That's a big swing."

The Padres trailed by three runs in the ninth before Aderlin Rodriguez demolished a two-run homer off D-backs reliever Troy Scribner. Tatis followed with a lined-drive blast of his own a few pitches later.

Tatis is now 3-for-9 in Cactus League play, though he's still a long shot for the Opening Day roster. Service time is one consideration, as the Padres could gain an extra year of team control if Tatis were to remain in the Minors until mid-April. Plus, Tatis hasn't yet played a full season at Double-A, after missing the second half of 2018 with a broken bone in his thumb.

But that injury feels like ancient history at this point. Tatis raked for Estrellas Orientales in the Dominican Winter League, winning MVP of the round-robin phase of the postseason. He showed up in camp after leading Estrellas to its first league title in 51 years, and he hasn't stopped hitting.

"It's electric all the way around," said hitting coach Johnny Washington, who is working extensively with Tatis for the first time this spring. "Offensively, the package is unbelievable. The power, [the swing] is clean. It's an impact bat. The sky's the limit."

Strahm sharp in debut

Matt Strahm began his quest for a place in the Padres' rotation on Wednesday afternoon. Ironically enough, he did so as a reliever. Strahm pitched scoreless ball in the third and fourth innings, allowing just one hit while striking out two.

There's a belief that Strahm could become the Padres' ace in the hole. He was excellent in relief last season, posting a 2.05 ERA in 41 appearances. But the club opted not to stretch him into a starter, given that he was recovering from 2017 knee surgery.

This year, Strahm had a full offseason to work with, and he added approximately 20 pounds to his frame.

"I came in as a starter versus rehabbing, trying to get healthy," Strahm said. "I have my legs under me a little better."

The Padres haven't fully committed to using Strahm in the rotation. But the arsenal adds up. Strahm uses a four-pitch mix, and he deploys his offspeed offerings relatively evenly.

"We all believe very confidently that he possesses the stuff to pitch in the rotation ... if we feel like he's responding well to the workload," Green said. "We really won't know that until we get toward the end of camp."

Myers back in center

The Padres are looking for versatility with their outfield, and on Wednesday, that meant a return to center field for Wil Myers. It's highly unlikely Myers ever sees regular playing time in center, but there are obvious benefits to a lineup that could feature Myers, Hunter Renfroe and Franmil Reyes against left-handed pitching.

Myers was tested twice, and he looked serviceable. After starter Joey Lucchesi walked consecutive hitters in the second inning, Rob Refsnyder hit a drive to the warning track. Myers ran it down and fired to second, holding the trail runner at first.

A batter later, Caleb Joseph lifted a blooper to right-center. It would've been a tough play even for Manuel Margot or Travis Jankowski. Myers played it on a hop before spinning and throwing to second to hold Joseph to a single.

"I felt good," Myers said. "It felt normal."

The Padres feel this is very different than Myers' ill-fated center-field stint in 2015. Myers might only play there once or twice per week, and when he does, the Padres have elite defensive replacements at the ready. But more importantly, the club feels as though Myers' center-field defense would be improved with a deeper alignment and better overall positioning.

Covering the bases

First: Lucchesi worked two innings of one-run ball in his spring debut. He was sharp in the first before the consecutive walks led to a run in the second. Lucchesi, who posted a 4.08 ERA in 26 starts last season, is a heavy favorite for a place in the Padres' rotation.

Second: Second baseman Ian Kinsler wasted little time getting into the Cactus League hits column with his new club. He led off for the Padres on Wednesday and singled in his first spring at-bat before grounding out in the third.

Third: Franmil Reyes did what Franmil Reyes does: He made loud contact on Wednesday afternoon. Reyes singled to left in the second and doubled to right in the seventh, and both times, he scorched the ball. Reyes, who finished second on the team with his 92.3 mph average exit velocity last season, is competing for a place in the Padres' outfield.

Home: Don't expect an announcement on an Opening Day starter any time soon. Said Green: "We have depth, we have quality and we have guys we believe a lot in. None of them have earned the right to say, 'Hey it should be my ball on Opening Day.' So we have to make a decision who that is. We're not really concerned with, in the eyes of the world, how anyone else perceives it."

Up next

Thursday is full of rotation candidates for the Padres, who head to Surprise, Ariz., to face the Royals at 12:05 p.m. PT. Lefty Eric Lauer, a strong favorite, will get the ball first. Prospects Logan Allen and Cal Quantrill and righty Bryan Mitchell are on the bubble, and they're also slated to pitch.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.