Tatis: 'I'm not going to change my game at all'

Padres phenom sidelined with third injury in past 14 months

August 24th, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- -- when he's on the field -- is already one of baseball’s most dynamic players.

But the Padres' 20-year-old phenom has now been sidelined three times in the past 14 months with injuries that have forced him to miss significant time. That leaves the Padres grappling with whether there’s a better way to make sure their shortstop of the future is on the field more frequently.

Following his three unrelated injuries, many have wondered whether Tatis might be better served dialing back his unbridled aggressiveness on the field and on the bases. Tatis doesn't think so.

"No, absolutely not," Tatis said Friday, addressing his back injury for the first time since he was placed on the injured list last week. "If it's part of it, it's part of it. But I'm not going to change my game at all."

Tatis spent the past week in San Diego rehabbing the stress reaction he sustained in his lower back. He'd been nursing some minor back soreness early this month. But that turned into pain after a swing during the Padres' game on Aug. 13 against Tampa Bay.

Tatis was placed on the injured list shortly thereafter, and it's a near certainty he won't play for the remainder of the season.

"It was hard, I'm not going to lie," Tatis said of the injury. "It's part of the game. You acknowledge that, and you've got to keep moving forward right now."

In 84 games this season, Tatis was hitting .317/.379/.590 with 22 home runs. Had he remained healthy, he would've found himself in contention for the National League batting title and Rookie of the Year Award.

When asked about those accolades on Friday, Tatis downplayed what they might have meant. His biggest reason for disappointment, he said, is being off the field for the stretch run.

"I was just playing my game, and I really wasn't thinking about that," Tatis said. "I was just trying to help my team win. That was the big thing for me."

As for Tatis' assertion that he won't change the way he plays, the Padres have offered a differing viewpoint. They don't want Tatis to lose the abandon with which he plays, but they'd like to see him pick and choose his spots.

For instance: Tatis strained a hamstring in April while stretching (and doing a split) on a forceout at second base. That kind of injury is seemingly preventable.

So is the broken finger he sustained in the Minors last July while sliding headfirst into second base. Tatis now wears an sliding mitt for protection.

Tatis' back ailment is essentially the first regular usage injury he's sustained in his life, so the Padres are quick to dispute the notion that he might be injury-prone. He merely needs to adapt, they say.

"He's just had an unbelievable rookie season," said Padres manager Andy Green. "Nobody's looking to change him much or at all. But there will be moments in time where he learns, through time, that he doesn't need to take a chance.

"That's not necessarily saying he's going to play soft or step off the gas pedal. He'll play very similar to the way he always has. That's the way we want him to play. He will continue to learn and grow the more he plays."

Added Tatis: "[I'll] come back next year, or whenever I get back, and I'll be even stronger."