Inbox: Will Tatis return to shortstop?

Padres beat reporter AJ Cassavell answers questions from the fan base

August 29th, 2021

SAN DIEGO -- It's a rare Sunday off-day, and then it’s crunch time, a five-week stretch that will make or break the Padres’ season.

Let's dive straight into your questions.

When will move back to shortstop? Why does he look so sad?
-- Sandra M.

These two questions, at least according to Tatis himself, have nothing to do with each other. First, about the sad faces:

"[I am] a really positive guy, but this is how it works," Tatis said earlier this week. "When we’re not doing good, it’s definitely hard for us to smile."

The Padres are losing. Losing isn't fun. Ergo, less of Fernando Tatis Jr.'s trademark smile. And the fact that both he and the Padres have been struggling ever since his transition to the outfield?

“Totally unrelated,” Tatis said.

As for the shortstop question, I think it's the single most interesting micro-level question regarding this organization right now. Tatis is the Padres' biggest star -- and yet no one really knows what position he's going to be playing in both the short and long term.

The Padres have left open the possibility that he might play some shortstop down the stretch. But they're extremely comfortable with the way he's taken to playing the outfield -- and Jake Cronenworth is obviously very capable at short. If the Padres deem outfield to be safer for Tatis' balky left shoulder, he'll almost certainly stay there.

Long term? That's also up in the air. There are people in the organization who feel Tatis would make an elite defensive outfielder. Their top prospect, meanwhile, is shortstop CJ Abrams. But Tatis has expressed a strong desire to remain at short. It'll be the storyline that dominates the offseason. Right now, though, the Padres are focusing on pushing those offseason storylines as far off as possible.

I know it's been said, but where is the starting pitching depth in this organization? We traded off Cal Quantrill and Luis Patiño and have multiple bullpen days every week.
-- @CoryDillard17

To be fair, Quantrill and Patiño went to Cleveland and Tampa Bay, respectively, in deals that netted and . Both Quantrill and Patiño have been producing lately, which certainly stings. But it was basically a wash, numbers-wise.

That said, your point about pitching depth is a fair one. Sure, the Padres have been ravaged by injuries. But it's the organization's job to prepare for those injuries. The lack of capable starters ready to come up from the Minor Leagues and contribute is glaring. That's partly due to development and partly due to organizational roster construction.

You can bet the Padres front office has learned its lesson and will make building starting pitching depth a priority this winter. In the meantime, we might finally be done with bullpen days for a while. is back from injury, and and are approaching potential returns.

Is Jayce Tingler on the hot seat? The way he managed that extra-inning game against the Dodgers was putrid.
-- @lando33

I'll say this about that Dodgers game on Wednesday: Yes, Tingler made some very questionable decisions -- including one that was borderline indefensible. But he isn't the only manager to have a bad game. He merely had a bad game at a very bad time -- and it was especially obvious because, well, the Padres mustered only four hits over 16 innings.

For the most part, Padres brass thinks highly of Tingler's strategic acumen. (Remember, he managed a masterpiece of a bullpen game last October in a winner-take-all game against the Cardinals.)

But that’s not the only factor contributing to questions about Tingler’s job. I don't get the sense he's on the hot seat as though something might happen to him in-season. But the Padres are drastically underperforming expectations. If they can't pull themselves out of their current slide, they'll re-evaluate things during the offseason. It's worth bringing up this quote from Tingler after pitching coach Larry Rothschild was dismissed:

"Larry is definitely not a scapegoat in this," Tingler said. "Me, as the manager, ultimately I'm responsible for the staff. I’m responsible for our performance and getting our players to play to their abilities."

What is the likelihood of being called up in September?
-- Rich R.

High. (Even though rosters will only expand to 28 players this September, callups almost always feature a third catcher -- and the Padres wouldn’t mind adding some pop to their bench.)

What are the chances of seeing make his Padres debut this year?
-- @og_sandiego

Low. (The Padres would love to see Gore continue to build on his two strong starts at the Arizona Complex League. But they're also finally feeling good about the health and production of their rotation. If Gore gets called up to the big leagues, it probably means something disastrous happened elsewhere.)

How is your face doing?
-- Megan R., San Diego

Ah, yes, about that ...

As some of you may have heard, I had a bit of an eventful weekend. On Friday afternoon, I was in the visiting dugout at Angel Stadium chatting with a Padres staffer while the home team took infield practice.

Out of nowhere -- WHAM -- an Angels player, who shall remain nameless, uncorked an errant throw that had just enough height to clear the dugout railing but was sinking just enough to catch me square in the nose, leaving a minor fracture, a couple of scrapes and a whole lot of soreness and swelling.

I'll spare you the gory details, only to say this: A big shoutout to the Padres medical staff for its help -- particularly trainer Ricky Huerta, who was on the scene instantly. The Angels' on-field operations team was excellent, too.

Every time I set foot on the field before games, I make sure to be fully aware of my surroundings. At any given moment, there are baseballs flying from all directions, and -- speaking from experience now -- those things hurt. Sometimes you’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Feeling much, much better today though. Looks like I’ll be avoiding a trip to the IL.