Padres quash Tatis peeking allegations

More on Tatis' defense, SD bullpen and running wild

April 26th, 2021

And on the 18th day, the Padres rested.

After playing 17 games in 17 days -- replete with the franchise’s first no-hitter, seven wild games against the Dodgers and all the Fernando Tatis Jr. drama you could ask for -- the Padres finally had a day off Monday.

Time to empty the notebook:

1) No peeking

No, the Padres say, Tatis was not looking at Will Smith's signs.

Tatis and Dodgers starter Trevor Bauer went back and forth on Twitter over a video implying that's what Tatis was doing before his second home run against Bauer on Saturday night.

The nature of baseball in 2021 is such that it's hard to ascertain Tatis' side of this story. The two began trading barbs on Sunday, but Tatis' Zoom availabilities came on Friday and Saturday. All we have from Tatis is his two-word comment to Bauer: "Tranquilo hijo," translated as "calm down, son."

Behind the scenes, several Padres sources are insistent that Tatis was doing nothing of the sort. Freeze any video at a particular moment, they said, and you can make it look however you want.

After Sunday's game, Eric Hosmer addressed the issue:

"That was maybe a little bit of confusion on their part," Hosmer said. "I don’t think Tati was looking at signs. I’ve never really seen him do that. I certainly didn’t see it last night."

2) More where that came from?

Against the team with the best record in the Majors and the reigning World Series champs, the Padres are a game over .500.

Against the rest of their schedule -- the D-backs, Giants, Rangers, Pirates and Brewers -- they're also a game over .500.

If the Padres want to seriously challenge for the National League West title this season, beating the Dodgers helps. But it'll take more than that. The Dodgers have made a habit of beating up on lesser teams. The Padres have yet to do so.

Sure, San Diego has looked every bit like a World Series contender in seven games against L.A., but...

"We've got to bring that every day," said Padres manager Jayce Tingler.

3) What’s up with Tatis' glove

At the plate, no question, Tatis is back. He homered five times in three games against the Dodgers and looks as locked in as he has at any point in his remarkable young career.

At shortstop? Yikes. Tatis leads the Majors in errors with nine, including another in Sunday's game. A year ago, Tatis committed just three errors and led all shortstops in Statcast's Outs Above Average. The Padres have insisted he'll return to that level. The questions are: "when?" and "how?"

Fortunately, it's noted defensive wiz Bobby Dickerson, the Padres’ third-base coach, who is tasked with working with Tatis.

"We've had a little bit of a hiccup at shortstop," Dickerson said on Friday. "We know he's going to play better than that. But we need to make sure he gets into a place where he's slowing the game down and trusting all of his abilities, like he did last year."

4. On the bullpen ...

Two notes before we get to critiquing Tingler's bullpen management:

A) The Padres’ pen was severely taxed heading into this weekend. Health-wise and fatigue-wise, we don't know what, exactly, each pitcher was dealing with.

B) Let's not forget that in one of three winner-take-all games in the franchise's history, Tingler managed an absolute masterpiece of a bullpen game last October. That should put any April hiccups into perspective.

OK, now on to those critiques:

Saturday's decision to lift Snell was curious, especially after Snell had gotten a quick out to start the inning and was still below his target pitch count. Sunday's decision to use Nick Ramirez in a one-run game was even more confounding.

Using Ramirez in that spot should have meant that one of Drew Pomeranz, Emilio Pagán and Mark Melancon was not available. Otherwise, why use Ramirez there with an off-day the next day? Except ... Pomeranz, Pagán and Melancon were all used. So what gives?

In short, Tingler was trying to avoid Pagán, but he also trusted Ramirez for that spot. Ramirez gave up five runs and put the Padres in a six-run hole. So, in hindsight?

"Look, I go to bed every night playing plenty of those games," Tingler said. "Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. There's nobody that beats themself up harder."

5) Mark the Shark

What a signing Melancon was, huh?

The Padres inked the veteran right-hander to a one-year, $3 million deal in February, even though he says he had much larger offers on the table.

The reason? After coming agonizingly close with the Braves last season, Melancon wanted to win a World Series. Thus far, he's doing his part with 11 innings of one-run ball in which he's allowed just four baserunners.

On Saturday, Melancon was asked how he coped with the Braves' NLCS loss to the Dodgers last October:

"Well, it probably cost me a few million dollars," he said. "Because I wanted to join a team that was going to be able to win it all so badly in the offseason."

6) Born to run

It's not just that the Padres are stealing bases. (They lead the Majors with 32 steals, 10 more than any other team.) It's that they're picking all the right moments to do so -- and they're almost never getting caught in those big moments.

That's down to two things: extremely skilled baserunners and extremely adept gameplanning. It may have won them Sunday's game, too. Fernando Tatis Jr. and Trent Grisham executed a picture-perfect double steal in the 11th inning, setting up Eric Hosmer's game-winning sacrifice fly.

Right now, the Padres’ running game is elite.

7) Evaluating the offense

Cut the offense some slack. As a team, the Padres’ bats haven't quite lived up to their billing this season. Their 94 wRC+ ranks 15th in the Majors and their .684 OPS ranks 18th.

Considering the starting pitchers they've faced over the past 10 days, that's probably where you'd expect them to be. The Padres have faced a steady diet of Cy Young Award contenders -- Walker Buehler (twice), Clayton Kershaw (twice), Trevor Bauer (twice), Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, Adrian Houser and Dustin May.

"It's been challenging," Tingler said. "But I've said it all along: I really believe this stretch at the beginning -- because of the challenges we’ve faced -- if we come together, it’s going to make us stronger for the summer."