Garrett Richards should know a thing or two about assessing Hall of Fame-level talent. The Padres' veteran right-hander spent the first eight seasons of his career playing alongside surefire Hall of Famers Mike Trout and Albert Pujols.
So Richards chooses his words carefully when he's asked about one of the game's brightest young stars. But he also has no doubts regarding Fernando Tatis Jr.'s ceiling.
"We had a lot of guys come through Anaheim that are going to be Hall of Famers," Richards said. "He's a tremendous young player. He has every tool in the book. I think he has a bright future.
"If he wants to, he could be a Hall of Famer himself."
Richards is quick to acknowledge the unpredictable nature of baseball. (If anyone would know, it's Richards, whose rapid rise was derailed by injuries, though he's begun to look like the pre-surgery version of himself again lately.) Putting those kinds of expectations on a 21-year-old is perhaps a bit unfair.
"I just know how it goes," Richards added. "He's going to have to make adjustments at the plate just like everybody. People figure out things on people. Do I think he can handle it? Without a doubt. He's a tremendous player. ... I'm excited to see him in the future. He's great right now. But I need a little bit more sample."
Fair enough. Tatis only recently surpassed the 100-games milestone (and he did so with 30 home runs, more than any shortstop in baseball history). He enters play Wednesday with a career .320 average and 1.002 OPS.
Tatis currently leads the National League in both home runs and steals, and during Richards' start Tuesday, he uncorked a 92.8 mph missile from second base on a double-play turn. After the game, Richards, like so many of Tatis' teammates, was somewhat lost for words.
"There's nothing I can say that hasn't already been written or talked about," Richards said. "I've played with some good players. I played with Mike for several years -- me and Mike played together in the Minor Leagues, all the way through. I've seen good players. [Tatis] is definitely a good player. I think he's just [at the tip] of the iceberg.
"As he gets older, and God willing he stays healthy, he's as good of a talent as I've ever seen. I'm just really pumped that he's on our team."
Hedges downplays collision
Padres catcher Austin Hedges was none too pleased with a home-plate collision on Tuesday night in which the Dodgers' Chris Taylor veered into his path while Hedges applied a tag.
Taylor knocked Hedges’ catcher’s mask off in the process, and afterward, Hedges had some words for Taylor. Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes, who was in the on-deck circle at the time, chirped back at Hedges before both sides separated.
"[It was] definitely unanticipated with the rule that's in place for that," Hedges said. "You don't expect that. That's why we were taught to give the plate, which is what I was set up to do. But the main goal is to hold onto the ball and tag the guy out, whether he's sliding or not."
Hedges, of course, is no stranger to these types of plays. Facing the Cubs in 2017, Hedges was barreled into by Anthony Rizzo, despite giving a lane to the plate. The play sparked plenty of controversy, and Hedges missed a couple games afterward due to the effects of the collision.
Tuesday's play at the plate was innocuous compared to that one. But it's worth noting that the Dodgers and Padres have had their share of chippy moments this season. Tatis ran into Dodgers catcher Will Smith last week during a rundown, prompting Justin Turner to bark at Tatis. A day later, the two sides exchanged five hit-by-pitches.
Hedges said there's nothing to read into the discord between the Padres and Dodgers this year. He merely thinks the nature of a 60-game season has changed the stakes.
"It's mid-August baseball," Hedges said. "That's the way that it is. ... Every game is a playoff push. That's obviously going to add a little bit of pressure to perform, and sometimes those instances lead to some chirping here. That's basically what it comes down to."
• Padres manager Jayce Tingler has indicated that he would ease Eric Hosmer back into his everyday first-base role. Hosmer spent time on the injured list with a gastrointestinal illness and has been building back his weight and his strength.
As such, Wednesday was a planned off-day for Hosmer. Even when the Dodgers switched from the lefty Julio Urías to the righty Tony Gonsolin, Hosmer remained on the bench. He's expected to start Thursday when Urías starts.
• Dinelson Lamet is scheduled to start Friday, as expected, and Richards gets the ball Sunday, leaving Saturday as the open day in the Padres' rotation, which currently features four starters for five spots. They employed a bullpen day to great success on Monday in Los Angeles, and Hedges indicated that might be a viable strategy again.
"Anything can go in a playoff stretch," Hedges said. "You're definitely not afraid to go use a bullpen, especially when you have the depth that we do and the amount of arms that can go multiple innings. ... When you have a weapon, why not use it?"