PEORIA, Ariz. -- Those sunny vibes that fill Peoria at the start of Padres Spring Training every year? They evaporated eight seconds into A.J. Preller’s traditional pre-camp media availability on Monday morning.
While his team readied for its first workout of 2022, the Padres president of baseball operations had a grim announcement to make: Superstar shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. had fractured his left wrist during the offseason and will miss up to three months, with the injury likely to require surgery, Preller said.
The exact origin of the injury is unclear, though Tatis noted he first felt it flare up while taking swings about a month ago. Doctors think it's likely that Tatis had injured his wrist prior to that flareup, though he says he only felt it when he began to ramp up for the season.
"It's terrible," said Tatis, speaking on Monday during the first full day of Padres camp. "I feel like everybody's disappointed, especially me. I feel like we have a pretty good chance this year as a team, and I just want to be out there for my teammates."
Tatis was involved in a minor motorcycle accident in December, and the two could be related. He said he suffered "bumps and bruises," but his wrist largely felt OK afterward. It wasn’t until Tatis began to push himself in preparation for the season that it became apparent something was wrong.
The Padres, of course, will take a serious hit without Tatis, their perennial MVP candidate who batted .282/.364/.611 with an NL-leading 42 homers and was worth a 6.6 bWAR last season.
It seems unlikely that the Padres would address Tatis' absence by making a move. They feel they already have a number of quality in-house candidates, including Jake Cronenworth and Ha-Seong Kim. Notably, top prospect CJ Abrams has impressed during camp as well.
"It's obviously a hit," said new Padres manager Bob Melvin. "But it gives somebody else an opportunity. ... We signed Kim for a reason last year. He's going to get a great opportunity here. Cronenworth can play there. We'll see where we are with Abrams down the road, too. Somebody will be out there."
Tatis' injury is the latest blow in a series of ailments for the star shortstop, who will now have missed significant time in three of his first four seasons. In 2019, he dealt with a back ailment that ended his season in mid-August. Last year, Tatis experienced four separate shoulder subluxations, and he landed on the injured list twice because of them.
Tatis opted not to have surgery on his shoulder in the offseason, noting that his strengthening exercises have paid off. He believes that injury has fully healed.
"Shoulder is in a perfect situation," Tatis said.
The wrist, of course, is a different story. Tatis said that he and the Padres haven't finalized the decision to have surgery. Team doctors are still evaluating the nature of the injury.
"It looks like it's headed for a surgery," Preller said. "He's got some more tests in the next couple days. But it looks like most likely it's surgery here later this week to repair the fracture. We'll see where it goes. That fracture usually can be up to three months of recovery time. He's obviously been a quick healer with some injuries in the past."
Should Tatis undergo surgery, it would put his tentative return date at sometime in mid-June. It’s possible the timeline could’ve changed had the injury been diagnosed sooner, but it didn’t flare up on Tatis until relatively recently.
Preller noted that the team was permitted to have contact with Tatis via team doctors following his motorcycle accident. They checked in with Tatis’ camp, though he couldn’t be evaluated directly because of the ongoing lockout.
The team learned of the severity of the injury when Tatis arrived for Sunday’s report day. Tatis noted that he’d been experiencing some soreness since ramping up baseball activity, but he didn’t know the extent until his physical revealed the fracture.
“It caught all of us off guard,” Tatis said. “It got me by surprise. I was doing my activities, and it was something I could put off. But as we got more heavy in on-field stuff, it got me more and more.”
It’s a cruel start to camp for a team that had arrived in Peoria with renewed expectations after a busy offseason. The Padres hired Melvin and revamped their entire coaching staff after a disappointing finish to the 2021 season.
If anything, Tatis’ injury only serves to reinforce the team’s need to bolster its offense. The Padres may have a few in-house options to play shortstop, but none of them offer the type of offensive production Tatis brings. Preller is actively searching for some thump in the middle of the Padres lineup, most likely a corner outfielder or two.
“It’s upsetting,” said Cronenworth, Tatis’ double-play partner. “Hopefully we can get him back as quickly as possible. It stinks. He’s a great player. Obviously, he’ll be around the guys, which is a great influence. Now, we’ll just try to get him back as soon as possible.”