WASHINGTON -- The Padres have played their entire season without Fernando Tatis Jr., eagerly awaiting the return of their superstar shortstop. They will now need to wait until sometime in 2023.
Tatis has been suspended 80 games after testing positive for Clostebol, a performance-enhancing substance in violation of Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, the league announced shortly before the club’s 10-5 win over the Nationals on Friday. The suspension is without pay and effective immediately, meaning Tatis will miss the remainder of this season and the first 33 games of the 2023 season. Any games the Padres play in the 2022 postseason will count toward the suspension, which would reduce the number of games he'll have to sit out next year.
"I have been informed by Major League Baseball that a test sample I submitted returned a positive result for Clostebol, a banned substance," Tatis said in a statement. "It turns out that I inadvertently took a medication to treat ringworm that contained Clostebol. I should have used the resources available to me in order to ensure that no banned substances were in what I took. I failed to do so.
"I want to apologize to Peter [Seidler], A.J. [Preller], the entire Padres organization, my teammates, Major League Baseball, and fans everywhere for my mistake,” the statement continued. "I have no excuse for my error, and I would never do anything to cheat or disrespect this game I love.
"I have taken countless drug tests throughout my professional career, including on March 29, 2022, all of which have returned negative results until this test.
"I am completely devastated. There is nowhere else in the world I would rather be than on the field competing with my teammates. After initially appealing the suspension, I have realized that my mistake was the cause of this result, and for that reason I have decided to start serving my suspension immediately. I look forward to rejoining my teammates on the field in 2023."
The Padres released the following statement:
“We were surprised and extremely disappointed to learn today that Fernando Tatis Jr. tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance in violation of Major League Baseball’s Joint Prevention and Treatment Program and subsequently received an 80-game suspension without pay. We fully support the Program and are hopeful that Fernando will learn from this experience.”
The impact is massive for the Padres, and the timing especially unfortunate. The club had been expecting Tatis to make his season debut later this month, possibly as early as next week, after he began a rehab assignment on Aug. 6. The 23-year-old had been sidelined since undergoing surgery to repair the scaphoid bone in his left wrist on March 16. Tatis, who has a .292/.369/.596 slash line over 273 career games across three big league seasons, fractured his wrist in an offseason motorcycle accident.
Tatis, who signed a 14-year, $340 million extension prior to last season, will forfeit roughly $3.2 million during the suspension.
The Padres lose one of baseball’s best players, right after acquiring another in preparation for the stretch run. Tatis burst onto the scene in 2019 and was a top-four finisher in NL MVP balloting in both 2020 and ’21, padding that slash line with 81 home runs and 13.6 bWAR over parts of three seasons. He led the NL with 42 homers in ’21, and last year became the fastest player in MLB history to reach 50 career home runs and 50 career stolen bases.
But Tatis has played in only 273 of San Diego’s 499 games since debuting on Opening Day ’19.
“This is the second time we've been disappointed with him,” said Mike Clevinger, who earned the win on Friday. “You hope he grows up and learns from this and learns that it’s about more than just him right now.”
The Padres had been hesitant to put a concrete timetable on Tatis’ return, due in part to his injury history. Even Friday afternoon, manager Bob Melvin was noncommittal about a specific return date, but was encouraged by the slugger’s progress at Double-A San Antonio. He said before the game he expected Tatis to play center field Saturday for San Antonio.
Less than two hours later, the Padres learned of Tatis’ suspension. General manager A.J. Preller and Melvin addressed the team about a half hour prior to first pitch.
“It stunned everybody,” Melvin said. “It’s obviously disappointing. … This is a blow for us, and we'll have to move on. I'm glad we made the moves we did at the Deadline. We feel like we have a really good team still, and sometimes you have to deal with some adversity as a team.”
Said Manny Machado: “It’s devastating. … It's terrible to hear. That he's suspended and not going to be a part of what we're trying to accomplish here, it’s not something you want to hear before a game and definitely [not] something you want to hear overall. So it’s just a terrible thing.”