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Tatis Jr. proving himself with his glove, too

Padres shuffle bullpen, call up Maton and Perdomo
@AJCassavell
April 14, 2019

PHOENIX -- Remember those questions about whether Fernando Tatis Jr. could handle shortstop in the big leagues? It's probably been a while since you heard them. The sample is undoubtedly small. But through half a month in the Majors, Tatis hasn't just held his own. He's been one of the

PHOENIX -- Remember those questions about whether Fernando Tatis Jr. could handle shortstop in the big leagues?

It's probably been a while since you heard them.

The sample is undoubtedly small. But through half a month in the Majors, Tatis hasn't just held his own. He's been one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball.

The 20-year-old phenom, ranked as MLB Pipeline’s No. 2 overall prospect, has shown off every defensive tool over the Padres' first 16 games. A cannon for an arm? Check. Excellent range? Check. A little bit of flair? Check.

It's risky to look at defensive leaderboards in such small samples. But Tatis checks in as the top shortstop in the Majors with four defensive runs saved. His day-to-day exploits back those metrics, too.

All along, Tatis heard the skeptics. All along, he reiterated his belief that he would be a shortstop for the long haul. Now, he's backing it up.

"I think I've been playing very well," Tatis said. "I think I'll stay there for a very, very long time."

The Padres, of course, believed it all along. They never wavered in their belief in Tatis as a shortstop. In fact, they believed in Tatis' long-term future so much, they went and signed a third baseman to a 10-year deal.

"I never had a doubt," said manager Andy Green, who was quick to add that he understood why any outside observers might.

"I think a lot of people looked at him and saw the size and thought that usually falls off the position," Green said. "As he's gotten bigger, he's gotten quicker, twitchier, more explosive. That's stuff that you usually don't see."

Tatis has already made some unbelievable plays at shortstop this season. He made a ridiculous backpedaling grab to rob Zack Greinke of a hit last week. On Thursday, he laid out to snare a Caleb Joseph liner up the middle. In Chris Paddack's debut, he made a diving play in the hole, rose to his feet and threw to first. Those plays are his personal favorite.

"The diving backhand in the hole, when I get to show off my arm -- that's the one that I like most," Tatis said.

Over the past decade, the Padres have had their share of shaky defensive shortstops. A year ago, they landed Freddy Galvis, who turned that around. Galvis was excellent. But San Diego has yet to experience a defensive drop-off with Tatis. In fact, the numbers indicate he has had a bit more range than Galvis.

"He covers as much, if not more, ground than anyone else in the league at that position," Green said. "He has plenty of arm strength. Every single play, he's capable of making. Does he have the Freddy Galvis consistency at this point in time? No. But that's going to come, and he's actually been really, really consistent."

Tatis' bat has been as useful as his glove. He launched a two-run home run on Saturday night, his fourth of the season, and he owned an .872 OPS entering Sunday. After his surprise inclusion on the Opening Day roster, Tatis has been an integral piece in the Padres' best start in 21 years.

"It's shown up in the win-loss column that he's with us," Green said. "It's shown up again and again, by the way he plays."

On both sides of the ball.

Noteworthy
• The Padres have called on their bullpen in a big way this weekend. They used six relievers to beat the D-backs on Saturday night. All six had also pitched in one of the series' previous two games.

The Friars needed reinforcements, and they arrived in the form of right-handers Phil Maton and Luis Perdomo, who were called up from Triple-A El Paso. Robert Stock and Gerardo Reyes were optioned to clear space.

Stock's demotion is the result of his struggle to find the strike zone this season. He has walked six hitters in six innings, including two on Saturday night with eight consecutive balls.

Manny Machado was out of the lineup Sunday, with Luis Urias starting at third base. It's the first time Machado’s name has been absent from the starting nine since he joined San Diego. Green said the club merely wanted to give Machado a day off in a difficult stretch of games.

"We brought him in for a decade," Green said. "We didn't want to blow him out in year one. We're looking at, when are the times to take strategic off-days? A day game after a long night game in a 12-day stretch ... it was the right time."

Machado twice has played in 162 games, including last season. But Machado actually received two days off last year. He was traded midseason from Baltimore to Los Angeles when the Orioles had played two more games than the Dodgers.

• The Padres opted to keep left fielder Wil Myers out of the lineup because of a sore left thumb. Myers sustained the injury while sliding headfirst into second base on Saturday night, though the injury wasn't serious enough to keep him out of the game entirely. He pinch-hit in the sixth, and San Diego expects him to be available for Monday in a series opener against Colorado.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.