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Ex-first-rounder Tate returns from 'personal issue'

Padres outfielder set to resume career, will start off in extended spring training

SAN FRANCISCO -- Former Padres first-round Draft pick Donavan Tate, who in 2009 agreed to the largest signing bonus in franchise history, is ready to resume his professional career.

Tate, who missed Spring Training attending to what was termed a "personal issue," arrived at the team's temporary workout facility in Arizona on Monday for extended spring training, set to close one chapter of his life while resuming another.

"It's been the same kind of things that I've been dealing with in my life for a long time," said Tate, who didn't reveal details about his issues. "They were issues that I finally felt I needed to address -- not just for me to play baseball, but to live life and enjoy it.

"But I feel like those issues are behind me. I'm relieved that I can now focus on the baseball side of it."

Tate, 22, took a physical on Tuesday and will now get in baseball shape in preparation for a return to one of the Padres' Minor League affiliates.

Tate was the third overall pick in 2009 out of Cartersville High in Georgia. His signing bonus was $6.25 million.

"I've been very blessed to be part of the Padres' organization," Tate said. "They've been very supportive of everything I've gone through and haven't given up on me."

Tate, now 22, met on Monday with Padres vice president of player development and international scouting Randy Smith.

"I liked the fact he looked me in the eye when I asked him if he wanted to play baseball," Smith said. "But he assured me it's something he wants to do. He was quite emphatic about it."

Smith said that while Tate showed up in Arizona looking the strongest he's seen him and in good shape, the outfielder's still not in baseball shape.

"He's got a ways to go," Smith said. "But he's probably three weeks to a month away from any action. That can change. But we haven't seen him do anything baseball-wise in a while."

Tate has a .241/.358/.320 line over parts of three Minor League seasons, with three home runs and 60 RBIs. Last season, Tate hit a combined .226/.342/.278 in 107 games between two Class A affiliates.

In June 2011, Tate was suspended 50 games for violating Major League Baseball's drug prevention and treatment program after testing positive for a "drug of abuse" for the second time. He served 25 games of that suspension after getting credit for 25 after he underwent substance-abuse counseling.

Tate had sports hernia surgery in October 2009. In November of that year, he suffered a broken jaw and facial lacerations in an ATV accident near his Georgia home. In 2010, Tate missed the start of the regular season after suffering a sprained left shoulder in Spring Training.

To be sure, his career has had plenty of stops and starts since the day he was drafted.

"It actually doesn't seem like it was that long ago," Tate said. "It feels like time has flown by. But it helps me to have a better perspective after what I have been through. I know that you can't take anything for granted. I took some things for granted and didn't work hard enough to achieve the success I wanted to have."

The road to doing so starts in Arizona, where Tate will remain for the foreseeable future.

"I've been through a lot of stuff, on and off the field. Things that have allowed me to learn and made me grow up," Tate said. "But I think going through this has made me more confident.

"I feel like I can put everything behind me and just focus on having fun again and playing baseball and being able to enjoy baseball and life as well. All of this has allowed me to get to a spot where I'm ready to mature and get ready to move on."

Corey Brock is a reporter for Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter.
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