'I almost forgot how': Tatis hits first spring homer
PEORIA, Ariz. -- It'd been a while.
Fernando Tatis Jr. had just launched his first home run of the spring on Friday night. He rounded second base and approached third for his usual stutter step, and ...
"Oh man,” Tatis said with a laugh. "I almost forgot how to do it."
Almost. But Tatis executed his customary stop-and-start at third base, much to the delight of the Peoria Stadium crowd. Then he touched home plate, marking his first home run in a Padres uniform since September 2021.
"My God, I can't remember the last time I had that feeling," said Tatis, who missed the entire 2022 campaign due to injuries and a PED suspension. "It feels great."
Tatis made no mistake on a first-pitch fastball from Mariners right-hander Chris Flexen, sending a rocket to straightaway center field off the batter's eye. He just missed a homer on Thursday, and he worked a walk in his only other plate appearance on Friday.
After an 0-for-16 start, in which he was clearly shaking off some rust, Tatis is now 4-for-9 with a double, a homer and a pair of walks over the last week.
"I feel like the work we're putting in is definitely working," Tatis said. "I'm just getting more confident, with more at-bats."
Indeed, Tatis is starting to look like his old self -- the version who won consecutive Silver Slugger Awards in 2020 and '21.
Of course, Tatis’ bat is only one half of the equation this spring. He’s also adjusting to a position switch, and he had an adventure in right field on Friday night -- with mostly positive results.
Half an inning after Tatis' solo home run, Mariners first baseman Ty France sent two fly balls in his direction. Tatis misplayed the first, a popup near the wall in foul territory.
Two pitches later, however, France sent a liner toward the right-center-field gap that appeared ticketed for extra-bases. Tatis turned on the jets and tracked it down on the run with a backhanded catch.
"I'm looking forward to that, what I'm capable of -- controlling it at the same time," Tatis said. "I feel like we're definitely putting in good work out there."
It was, in one at-bat, a summation of Tatis' current right-field juxtaposition: inexperience, coupled with remarkable athleticism. Two innings later brought more of the same. Tatis twisted and turned on a Cal Raleigh fly ball to the warning track. But despite the circuitous route, Tatis stuck his glove out and made an impressive catch.
"The more he’s out there, the more comfortable he’s going to be,” manager Bob Melvin said. “He’ll make some plays that maybe some other guys really can’t."
Tatis, of course, has time to work out some of those kinks. He's not eligible to return from his suspension until April 20.
In the meantime, Melvin noted after the game that the reason Tatis only received two plate appearances Friday was because he’s slated to play on Saturday as well -- marking the first time this spring that Tatis will play games on three straight days.
The impetus behind that decision? Well, the Padres have everyone back Saturday -- Juan Soto, Manny Machado, Nelson Cruz, Xander Bogaerts and Ha-Seong Kim have all returned from the World Baseball Classic. Melvin wanted Tatis in the mix, with the whole offense together for the first time. Tatis was eased into action earlier this spring, after surgeries on his left shoulder and wrist last year. He hasn’t yet had the opportunity to play with a fully loaded Padres lineup.
“It’ll be fun, right?” Melvin said. “We’re getting to the end of spring here now. … We’ll try to get them all out there tomorrow.”