Tatis shows arm, inexperience in right field

March 3rd, 2023

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Behind the scenes, has drawn rave reviews for his work in right field this spring. Padres officials are eager to see the finished product: Tatis -- his rocket arm, his elite speed, his penchant for the spectacular -- applying that skill set as a polished outfielder.

So far, his transition has been mostly smooth.

"Besides today," Tatis said with a laugh, shortly after he exited the Padres’ Cactus League game against the Mariners on Thursday afternoon.

Indeed, Tatis' spring debut in right field featured an unwelcome hiccup. After he made an easy catch on a first-inning can of corn, his second opportunity proved a bit trickier.

Tatis ranged to his right while taking a circuitous route on a fly ball hit by Teoscar Hernández. Tatis couldn't recover in time, and the ball caromed off his glove.

"I felt good on it," Tatis said. "But at the end, I couldn't adjust my glove at the last second."

Ultimately, that's what these games are for. Tatis isn't eligible to return from his PED suspension until April 20. He has another month and a half to work out the kinks in right field.

In 2021, when Tatis played some outfield following his return from multiple shoulder injuries, he wasn't afforded the luxury of that buildup.

“There’s going to be plays like that for him,” manager Bob Melvin said. “I told him: There are going to be times … you’re going to get frustrated. And then the next day, you’re going to probably make two plays that nobody else can make. Those are the types of things he’s going to learn the more he’s going to be out there.”

In fairness to Tatis, he came inches from throwing Hernández out at second base. Tatis' rocket arm is perhaps the tool the Padres are most eager to see in action in right field. It was a key factor in the team's decision to move  from right field to left, clearing the way for Tatis in right.

It's still possible Tatis gets work in center field later this spring. But to this point, the Padres have done their best to ease the transition by keeping Tatis' focus narrow -- one position at a time.

"For right now, his tools play really well in right field," Melvin said. "Especially his throwing arm -- that's the outfield position that seems like it gets the most chances, guys going first to third or second to home. I know he's eager about showing his arm off."


"I'm definitely looking forward to that,” Tatis said. "I've been putting the work in on it, and I definitely have the arm to do it. It's going to be more about the accuracy."

At the plate, Tatis' afternoon went largely the way it did Tuesday, when he made his debut at designated hitter. He walked and scored in his first at-bat. Then he finished 0-for-2 with a strikeout.

Of course, the Padres’ 5-4 loss Thursday marked the first time that Tatis, Soto and shared a lineup -- a prospect relished by Melvin.

"Him in there with Manny and Juan -- there are certain things that get you excited about during the course of Spring Training," Melvin said.

After Tatis' leadoff walk, he went first to third with ease on Soto's single, then scored later in the frame.

"It's definitely fun," Tatis said of hitting ahead of Soto and Machado. "You know when you get on base, you're for sure moving."

The Padres, having eased Tatis into action this spring, still haven't played a game with their entire quartet of superstars. That won't be happening any time soon, either.  departed for the World Baseball Classic on Wednesday, and both Machado and Soto will do the same on Monday.

When all four are available, it's still unclear how the Padres plan to line up Tatis, Soto, Machado and Bogaerts in their batting order. That’s a topic that has drawn plenty of discussion this spring.

One option would see Thursday’s order at the top, with Bogaerts hitting fourth. Tatis has scored in the first inning in both games he's played this spring. But it’s too early to make any declarations, Tatis says.

"That's why they have Bob," he said, laughing again. "But I feel like there's no wrong answers."