SD nears full strength as Tatis readies for rehab assignment

August 6th, 2022

LOS ANGELES -- Already, the Padres have had themselves quite a week. And it’ll only get better this weekend, when superstar shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. is slated to make his return to game action.

No, Tatis won't be at Dodger Stadium, where the Padres face the rival Dodgers in a three-game set between National League West heavyweights. But Tatis was on hand in Los Angeles on Friday afternoon and took live at-bats several hours before first pitch.

Then, he packed his things and headed for San Antonio, where he's scheduled to begin a rehab stint with the Padres' Double-A club either Saturday or Sunday.

It's unclear how long that rehab stint will last. In the past, Tatis has shown a penchant for returning quickly. But it has been 10 months since he last played, and the Padres need to make sure he's back at game speed.

“We’re going to take that day to day,” manager Bob Melvin said. “He didn’t have a spring, hasn’t played in the field yet. So we’ll monitor him as we go along.”

Melvin noted that Tatis will play shortstop, center field and designated hitter during his rehab stint. The Padres are planning to use Tatis primarily as a shortstop, but they could also use him in center against left-handed pitching. Ha-Seong Kim has been outstanding at short all season, and he has begun to heat up at the plate. As such, the Padres could look to form some sort of platoon between the righty hitting Kim and their lefty-hitting center fielder, Trent Grisham.

Melvin also noted that the Padres plan to make liberal use of the DH spot for Tatis, not wanting to ask too much too soon. Because he won’t have a traditional build-up, Tatis will also likely get a few scheduled off-days shortly after he returns, Melvin said. 

“This is one where he’s been out long enough to where we really don’t want to get ahead of ourselves,” Melvin said. “Make sure we go about it in the right fashion, make sure he’s healthy and make sure we’re not giving him too much.”

Tatis underwent surgery to repair the scaphoid bone in his left wrist on March 16 and was initially given a three-month timetable to return. His recovery progressed slower than the team had initially hoped, and Tatis was only cleared to begin swinging in mid-July.

But since Tatis got clearance to ramp up his swinging progression, he's advanced relatively quickly at every step. On Monday, he faced live pitching for the first time (and homered in his second at-bat). Friday was his third such session, and he took eight plate appearances -- four against a Minor League lefty and four against a righty.

On Thursday, Tatis underwent a scheduled scan on his wrist, which came back clean. Melvin noted that, barring a setback, this was likely the last time Tatis would undergo imaging, as he has passed every test.

Tatis' return to the lineup would give the Padres quite a boost. They've already landed Juan Soto, Josh Bell and Brandon Drury before the Trade Deadline, prompting Soto to wish, "Good luck to all the pitchers."

"I feel like we're going to put up a show," Tatis said earlier this week. "It's going to be really fun to watch."