PHOENIX -- Now that he has homered and stutter-stepped his way around third base, we can say it a bit more emphatically: Fernando Tatis Jr. is back.
Tatis launched his first Major League home run since 2021 in the top of the first inning of the Padres’ 5-3 victory over the D-backs on Saturday night. With one out and the bases empty, he turned around a belt-high fastball from Merrill Kelly and sent it to the first row in left field at Chase Field to open the scoring.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve done that in the big leagues,” Tatis said. “I’m glad I got it out of the way.”
Tatis returned from his 80-game PED suspension on Thursday night and had been off to a bit of a slow start. He went 0-for-5 in his return before notching a single in four at-bats on Friday night.
The receptions for Tatis have been mixed this weekend, with a number of Padres fans having made the trip from San Diego to see him play an MLB regular-season game for the first time since Oct. 3, 2021. The cheers have generally drowned out the boos -- and they certainly did after his first home run.
Those cheers reached a crescendo when Tatis approached third base and performed his signature home run move -- a stutter and a hop. He did so a bit more emphatically than usual. It had been a while.
“I needed that,” Tatis said with a smile.
Tatis’ last home run came on Sept. 30, 2021. You may remember it as the ball he hit out of Dodger Stadium entirely.
To say the least, this one wasn’t quite crushed like that one was. Tatis’ home run Saturday left his bat at just 89.6 mph, barely clearing the left-field fence. By exit velocity, it was the second-lowest on any home run in the Majors this season.
“He’s just strong when he gets to extension,” said Padres manager Bob Melvin. “Here, when the roof’s open, it carries a little bit better to left field. But regardless, hitting one out at 89 is difficult.”
Tatis’ home run on Saturday was the 82nd of his career. His first, coincidentally, also came against Kelly. This time, he fell behind 0-2 in the count, before Kelly made a mistake on the inner half.
“It felt good, battling against a tough pitcher,” Tatis said. “I feel like I got that one.”