Tatis swings, but it's just a 'systems check'

June 22nd, 2022

SAN DIEGO -- It’s a sight Padres fans have been hoping to see for months now: Fernando Tatis Jr. holding a baseball bat.

Only it’s not quite what those fans might hope it means.

The Padres’ superstar shortstop still hasn’t been cleared for batting practice, the most important step left before he can think about returning to the field after he broke a bone in his left wrist during the offseason. In fact, he still hasn’t been cleared to swing at full capacity.

But Tatis is swinging a bat again. That became clear on Tuesday, when Tatis was spotted doing just that in the Padres’ indoor batting cage at Petco Park. Video of Tatis taking swings quickly hit social media. Fans can view the batting cage from a hallway that leads to the seating area between the dugouts.

So what exactly is going on? Acting manager Ryan Christenson explained after the Padres’ 3-2, 11-inning victory over the D-backs.

“It’s more of him doing a little systems check, trying to figure where the wrist has progressed,” Christenson said. “I know he has not been cleared to go through any kind of swing progression -- hitting balls, hitting off the tee too much or any baseballs coming at him. As far as I know, it’s just a couple dry swings, getting the feel for it and figuring out which way we can go moving forward.”

A day later, after Tatis completed an extensive on-field workout that did not include swinging, he spoke briefly with reporters. He said the swings fans saw on social media were about “40 percent” of his full capacity. He noted that he’s been holding a bat, swinging lightly, for about a month or two.

“It’s just to see how it feels, to try my strength,” Tatis said.

So… how does it feel?

“Every day it feels a little bit better,” Tatis said. “Obviously we're progressing, day by day.”

In the meantime, Tatis has resumed almost all other baseball activity, now that he’s been cleared to play catch and take full-scale ground balls. Since his latest round of testing gave him clearance for those activities, Tatis has been working extensively with Padres staff pregame, mostly focused on defense and conditioning.

“It feels great to be on the field, to be doing baseball activities, getting back on track, getting the same feel back again,” Tatis said. “It's always a great day when you're in the park.”

The most important hurdle, of course, is for Tatis to begin swinging at a capacity closer to 100 percent. The Padres have said that won’t come until after further imaging on his wrist shows enough healing that he can get clearance from a doctor.

From there, Tatis will progress toward hitting lightly tossed balls, then eventually, batting practice. All along, the Padres have said they won't have a timetable for Tatis’ return until he gets that clearance.

On Wednesday, manager Bob Melvin returned to the dugout after 10 days on the sideline in COVID-19 protocols. He echoed Christenson’s sentiment.

“We’re in a period right now where we’re trying to find out how he feels,” Melvin said. “I knew he took some dry swings with a fungo. I think he hit a couple off a tee yesterday. We’re just trying to take stock of where he’s at. We’re not pushing anything.

“But we’re in a period here where something could change from day to day or week to week, and we want to just know how he’s feeling. That’s part of what you saw yesterday.”