Tatis gets first spring knocks: 'I remember how to hit'

March 11th, 2023

PEORIA, Ariz. -- After he lined a single up the middle and a double off the right-center-field wall on Saturday afternoon, wanted to make one thing clear.

"I remember how to hit," the Padres' superstar said with a smirk.

A performance like Saturday's certainly made his case.

Tatis is on the board. He notched his first two hits of Cactus League play in the Padres' 6-5 victory over the White Sox, tacking on a stolen base and a couple RBIs.

"It's definitely clicking, feeling great," Tatis said. " I just needed a couple more [at-bats], see more pitches, get more comfortable at the plate."

Tatis opened the spring in an 0-for-16 rut and acknowledged he was shaking off some rust. It has been more than 17 months, after all, since he last played a big league game.

Upon his spring debut two weeks ago, Tatis said he felt fine at the plate. He was swinging at the right pitches, but it was going to take some time for him to get reacclimated. He acknowledged his timing wasn't quite right, particularly on the fastball.

But Saturday? For the first time this spring, he looked like, well, himself -- the type of hitter who has racked up a pair of Silver Sluggers and a .965 career OPS. Tatis’ first inning liner was struck so sharply, White Sox shortstop Erik González couldn't corral it as he ranged to his left. Tatis’ fifth-inning double displayed the easy opposite-field power he has become so renowned for.

“All he needed to do was get a good swing,” said Padres manager Bob Melvin. “It’s going to be off to the races.”

The Padres, of course, have chosen to ease Tatis back into action this spring. He has played consecutive games only once and has yet to play consecutive games on defense.

There’s little reason to rush him. Tatis is not eligible to return until April 20, once he has served the final 20 games on his PED suspension. On top of that, he has undergone a trio of surgeries since he last played a game for the Padres, including two on his left wrist and one on his left shoulder.

Speaking Saturday, Tatis touted the effects of that August shoulder surgery on his confidence at the plate. In 2021, his last season in the big leagues, Tatis finished third in NL MVP voting. But he also missed multiple stretches of games as the result of shoulder subluxations. The operation was designed to prevent any further recurrences, but it sometimes comes with a tricky recovery.

The 24-year-old Tatis says he’s not feeling any lingering effects.

"It's just in the right place, not popping out," Tatis said. "But then after that, I feel like I have all my range of motion back, and I just feel great. ...

"Just happy to be back playing baseball."