Tone down Tatis? Padres won't hear of it

March 16th, 2021

plays the game at one speed only, and while that might expose him to extra risk at times, his manager is hesitant to try to curb that enthusiasm.

The latest example came Saturday, when Tatis scored from third base on a shallow fly ball to the left side that was caught by the second baseman. The Padres’ star flew home, finishing the play with a headfirst slide -- one Padres manager Jayce Tingler referred to at the time as a “baseball instinct” play.

Tatis did not play in the Padres' 13-3 Cactus League victory over the Brewers on Monday. While Tingler said his shortstop didn’t sustain a particular injury during the aggressive play, he acknowledged that “slamming down on that dirt” took its toll on Tatis, who missed nearly a week of games while battling a flu-like bug (non-COVID).

Asked whether Tatis was sitting out Monday because of the after-effects of the flu bug or the slide, Tingler said, “Probably a little bit of both, honestly.” The manager added that, had this been the regular season, Tatis would be playing and his status wouldn’t be an issue.

“The main thing is he's in really good shape, and even though he took six, seven days off with the flu bug, he's been able to maintain his rhythm and timing at the plate,” Tingler said. “We feel pretty good where he's at and we just want to make sure that we're not sending him out there at 90% this time. We're just making sure he's getting built back up to 100%.”

Tatis was slated for a “lighter workout” on Monday, though Tingler was uncertain whether the shortstop would do much hitting. On Tuesday, Tatis will ramp up his workout, after which the team will determine when he’ll see his next game action.

Taking the unnecessary risk of sliding headfirst into home during an exhibition game might be ill-advised, especially for a superstar such as Tatis, but Tingler warned that trying to change the way he plays the game could come with other consequences.

“This is what makes him an extremely special player: Before you start to have that conversation, you’ve got to realize what you would be possibly taking away,” Tingler said.

“The last thing we want is any type of injury or anything like that, certainly this time of the year. Also the last thing we want is to take any type of play where he's playing the game the way it's supposed to be played -- 100% running hard -- all those things away. I'm very aware of the risk factors and we'll certainly have some talks on that, but I'm probably more aware as well of taking a part of somebody's game away.”

Making an impression
is emerging as the favorite to win one of the final roster spots this spring, competing with and for a utility job.

“He's a great athlete, and he's got real assets to help a team,” Tingler said. “I think it starts with his legs and his speed; what he's been able to do is play some different defensive positions and he's played them pretty solidly.”

Mateo, who was acquired from the Athletics last summer, appeared in 22 games for San Diego in 2020, his debut with the club delayed after he tested positive for COVID-19. He hit just .154 with a .185 on-base percentage, but Tingler has liked what he’s seen from the 25-year-old in recent days, especially at the plate. Mateo 11-for-28 (.393) with six walks this spring after going 2-for-4 with a walk, a triple and three RBIs on Monday.

“The one thing I've liked the last couple days, he's been working on flattening out his swing,” Tingler said. “I think we've noticed the ball getting in play more. And the more times the ball is in play, he's got a chance to really showcase his legs and his speed. It's been a plus, and we want to make sure he keeps that going.”

From the trainer’s room
• Catcher (fractured left middle finger) will continue to throw and do light blocking drills, but the Padres won’t have a true indication of his progress until the inflammation and fluid in the area subside in four or five days.

“It doesn't have to be 100%; at some point it will be a pain-tolerance deal,” Tingler said. “I think if it was his choice, he would prefer to take on the pain right now. We're going to pull the reins back on him to make sure that we don't do that too early.”

• Right fielder , who was scratched Saturday because of a sore right knee, has a “great chance” to return to the lineup Tuesday, Tingler said.

• Center fielder (hamstring) was “feeling very good” on Monday, Tingler said, though his timetable to return remains unclear.