PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Padres haven't finalized a date for Fernando Tatis Jr.'s Cactus League debut. But they have a target in mind: Tuesday in Scottsdale against the Giants.
Manager Bob Melvin noted that the club is eyeing a midweek return to action for Tatis, with Tuesday as the likeliest possibility (though that date is subject to change based on Tatis' ramp-up schedule, Melvin said). The Padres' superstar is being eased into action this spring following surgeries to his left wrist and shoulder.
Tatis, meanwhile, is eager as ever to return. He hasn't played a game in a Padres uniform since fall 2021, having missed the '22 season due to a fractured wrist and a PED suspension. He has been a full participant in camp thus far, and he even rapped a couple of singles in a back-field simulated game against left-hander Adrian Morejon.
"I'm ready," Tatis said. "I'm just checking boxes for the manager and for the team, but I'm definitely ready."
The Padres have cited a balancing act with Tatis this spring, trying to get him reacclimated to game speed while simultaneously maintaining his health. Tatis isn't eligible to return from his suspension until April 20, and the team is in no rush to thrust him into action.
Instead, Tatis is going through a slower-than-usual progression. He’s getting at-bats, running the bases and playing right field. But he's doing so in a more controlled setting on the Peoria Sports Complex back fields.
"He's an instinctual player," Melvin said. "Maybe [you're worried] slightly more than with everybody else, because of the injuries. But if you start thinking about what you're doing out there, you could get injured just as easily doing that.
"What we're trying to do is take him through all the possible scenarios that he might see in a game and let him know: ‘How does that feel?’ Then, once he gets in a game, it's going to be pretty instinctual for him."
Tatis expressed his expectation that he will have no restrictions on the basepaths when he returns to action. (Following his shoulder subluxations in 2021, the team asked him to rein in his aggressiveness in an effort to keep him on the field, but his recent shoulder surgery was designed to address that issue.)
Still, the Padres have noted their preference that Tatis slide feet-first when possible. Tatis says he's open to doing so -- but he won't actively seek out feet-first slides.
"The game's going to talk, the game's going to dictate it," Tatis said. "I'm a baseball player. I'm not a doctor. ... I'm just going to play."
And is he ever itching to do so.
"I just want to get out there," Tatis said. "I miss the game so much. Like I mentioned, I haven't been on the field for a very long time. I just want to be out there with the boys, inside that lineup.”
• “Not bad for a back-field game,” one scout observed.
Soto was the star, launching a moonshot home run off Musgrove and working a walk. Otherwise, Musgrove was excellent, efficient enough to record five outs in the first inning.
Cruz, meanwhile, shot an opposite-field RBI double off the top of the wall against Morejon. Tatis plated a run as well.
Lugo is in a big league camp as a starter for the first time since 2018. That’ll require a bit of an arsenal change for Lugo, who previously relied heavily on his fastball/curveball mix. On Saturday, he used six pitches -- two-seamer, four-seamer, curve, slider, cutter and changeup.
“Felt good,” said Lugo. “Tried to mix in all the pitches in two innings and got them all in. Was pretty happy with the action on all of them.”
• The Padres, of course, have a vacancy in right field while they await Tatis’ return. David Dahl, a non-roster invitee vying for that job, tripled and made an excellent diving catch on Saturday. He’s making an early case for a roster spot.
“Good left-handed bat, bat stays in the zone for a while,” Melvin said. “He’s a professional guy, has done it before. He certainly wants to come in and make an impression, and so far, so good.”