Tatis hits 465-ft blast for 1st homer of '21

April 5th, 2021

SAN DIEGO -- had some frustration to take out when he came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning on Sunday afternoon.

On the whole, the Padres enjoyed a festive season-opening series, taking three of four from the D-backs, despite Sunday’s 3-1 defeat in their series finale. But Tatis -- their $340 million man and the sparkplug behind their resurgence as a franchise -- had opened the year in an undeniable rut.

Over his first 15 at-bats, Tatis notched just two singles, and he’d committed an unthinkable five errors in four games. With one swing, Tatis offered a loud reminder that, despite the early struggles, he’s still perfectly capable of doing some ridiculous things on a baseball field.

Tatis demolished a belt-high Chris Devenski fastball, sending it into the visiting bullpen at Petco Park -- a projected distance of 465 feet. That’s tied with Nate Lowe for the longest homer in baseball this season, and it’s the second longest of Tatis’ career.

The Padres think it was just the swing Tatis needed.

“For Tati to be able to square up a ball and be able to hit it as far and as hard as he did right there -- that's just going to jumpstart him and get him going,” Padres manager Jayce Tingler said.

It’s certainly something to build on after a rough start to the season for Tatis, who signed the longest contract in baseball history during the offseason. Tatis was not made available to the media after the game, but Tingler acknowledged that, perhaps, Tatis hasn’t quite been himself just yet.

“It was nice to see him square one up,” Tingler said. “Hopefully, now, he’ll get going. I think it’s fair to say [he’s] pressing a little bit. We all want to get off to great starts and get going. Is he forcing it a little bit? Maybe.

“But I know that’s a good sign. He squared that ball up, kept his head down, drove through it. Hopefully that’s a sign of really good things to come. As you guys know, when he gets hot, he’s capable of doing very special things.”

Of course, the early concerns for Tatis don’t center on his bat. He committed two more errors on Sunday afternoon -- first an ill-advised throw that bounced away from pitcher Chris Paddack covering first base in the third inning, then a misplay of an in-between hop on a grounder in the eighth.

That brought his total to five -- already more errors than Tatis committed in 2020, a season in which he overhauled his defense and became legitimately one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball. His nine outs above average, according to Statcast, were the most at the position.

Thus far, there’s been no central theme to Tatis’ errors. They’ve come on five very different plays. Tingler pointed to the fact that Tatis endured a stop-and-start Spring Training as he worked around some minor bumps and bruises.

“He’s not in his groove defensively right now,” Tingler said. “But there’s a lot of things I have confidence in. In my humble opinion, we’ve got [Bobby Dickerson], the best infield coach in the game. We’ve got Tatis, who’s athletic and has a great work ethic. My guess is once he gets into a little bit more rhythm out there, they’re going to find their flow and clean those things up.”

Neither of the errors was particularly costly, considering the Padres’ struggles against D-backs right-hander Taylor Widener, who pitched six scoreless innings. Paddack wasn’t as sharp. He allowed two runs on David Peralta’s seeing-eye triple down the first-base line in the first inning and needed 89 pitches to work through four innings.

But the Padres were still pleased with Paddack’s ability to escape trouble -- a skill that eluded him in '20. (This season is viewed as a crucial one in Paddack’s trajectory. He was excellent in ‘19 and disappointing in ‘20. His first start of ‘21 fell smack dab in the middle of those two.)

Paddack allowed his third and final run on Tatis’ third-inning error -- not that it bothered Paddack much. If there’s anyone who knows what Tatis is capable of, it’s Paddack, who received his big league callup at the same time.

“Signing his contract, and hearing his name called every at-bat and the fans going crazy -- it’s a lot of pressure,” Paddack said. “I’m just glad he got that first one out of the way, because now he’s going to do Tatis things -- I can tell you that.”