Why getting booed felt 'great' for Tatis

March 8th, 2023

This story was excerpted from AJ Cassavell's Padres Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

It had been mostly warm receptions for this spring. Until Monday at Camelback Ranch, that is.

At the spring home of the Dodgers, Tatis’ name was announced -- and quickly drowned out by a chorus of boos.

Ahhh, normalcy.

“It feels great,” Tatis said, laughing. “When you hear those boos, you’ve definitely got history over there.”

Tatis’ build-up has been a slow process this spring. Probably slower than he would like. But Tatis is coming off surgeries on his left shoulder and wrist, and he’s not eligible to return from his PED suspension until April 20.

As such, the Padres see no need to push Tatis. He’s yet to play consecutive games, and he had played only four games all spring before Wednesday.

After debuting as a designated hitter, Tatis’ formal transition to the outfield began last week. He’d drawn rave reviews behind the scenes for his work in right field. But in his first Cactus League defensive appearance, Tatis misplayed a fly ball -- taking a circuitous route, then watching the ball carom off his glove. (Hey, that's what these exhibition games are for.)

Two days later, however, Tatis made a sliding catch coming in on a ball. Then, he made a nice grab at the wall.

“Game by game, I’m seeing more balls off the bat, seeing a different type of spin, different adjustments, and I feel like every game I’ve been out there, I feel better every time,” Tatis said.

Tatis has all the tools to be an excellent right fielder. His rocket arm should play nicely, and at Petco Park -- with a spacious right-center-field gap -- he should be able to show off his wheels. Plus, Tatis has an entire spring to work at it. The last time he played the outfield, he was attempting to make that transition in-season.

At the plate, Tatis got off to a slow start: hitless entering Wednesday.

“I’ve had like nine at-bats,” Tatis said, laughing. “What’s going on out here?”

In reality, Tatis has more than his share of hits in back-field games at the Peoria Sports Complex. He recently launched a homer off veteran right-hander .

But Tatis admitted he feels just a bit out of sync at the plate. It had been more than 17 months since his last game with the Padres, after all.

“I’m probably a little bit late on the fastball,” Tatis said. “But I’m recognizing the good pitches and swinging at the pitches I want to swing at.”

Said manager Bob Melvin: “Look, it’s been a while. … It’s just about getting him time on a baseball field, and it’s all going to settle in nicely.”

Melvin’s right. At this point in the spring, the most important thing is Tatis’ health. And on that front …

“I feel great,” Tatis said. “My body’s bouncing back real good. My wrist and my shoulder -- I don’t feel nothing. Thank God. I’m just grateful that my body’s reacting so well.”