Padres welcome Fernando Tatís Jr. back following suspension

One of the best lineups in baseball is set to get even better.

Fernando Tatís Jr. will make his MLB return Thursday when the San Diego Padres take on the Arizona Diamondbacks. The 24-year-old star hasn’t played since the end of the 2021 season for a pair of reasons. First, a wrist injury he suffered in the 2022 offseason sidelined him before he tested positive for Clostebol, a performance-enhancing substance, in August. 

The positive test ended Tatís’ 2022 season before it began, as he received an 80-game suspension in accordance with MLB’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

When the suspension was announced, Tatís was at the beginning of his rehab assignment, playing in Double-A months after having wrist surgery. The announcement of his suspension also shocked his Padres teammates. Manny Machado said at the time he was “devastated,” while now ex-Padres pitcher Mike Clevinger said “This is the second time we’ve been disappointed with him,” adding that he hoped Tatís “grows up and learns” as it was also believed that his wrist injury came in a motorcycle accident.

However, the tone in Tatís’ teammates’ message has changed as he’s set to return. Machado said during spring training that Tatís is “a big part of this team” and the Padres were “going to be there with him through the whole way.” Veteran outfielder Nelson Cruz also recently shared his support for Tatís while pitcher Joe Musgrove gave a staunch defense of Tatís.

“We know that it’s not going to be easy trekking for him on the road,” Musgrove recently told reporters. “He’s going to hear it from the fans and whatnot. But we’re here to support him. I think in this room, we’ve all moved past it, and we’re accepting him for who he is moving forward and the things that he’s done to put himself in a position to return.”

San Diego Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr. is set to return from suspension

Though Tatis Jr was suspended for PEDs, Ben Verlander thinks he took them to try to return from injury more quickly and not for performance. With Tatis Jr currently on fire in the the minor leagues, Ben thinks Tatis will return as an MVP candidate.

Padres manager Bob Melvin explained in a recent interview with ESPN that the team began to embrace Tatís after he led a meeting in the clubhouse nearly two weeks following the news of his suspension.

“Because of the way he handled it,” Melvin told ESPN on the Padres’ change in tone surrounding Tatís. “The way he went to everybody and opened up and was remorseful. And you could tell he was being authentic. He wasn’t just having these conversations just to have them, to check the box. It wasn’t anything like that. And you could feel that.”

With Tatís’ suspension in the rearview, the Padres will finally roll out a star-studded lineup that many around the game thought would be one of the best in recent memory. Since the last time Tatís took the field, the Padres have added Juan Soto and Xander Bogaerts. While Tatís will still hit in his usual leadoff spot, Bogaerts’ signing caused the Padres to move Tatís to right field.

Minus Tatís, the Padres’ star-studded lineup hasn’t produced the way many have hoped so far. They’re 24th in the league in runs scored (73) and have played at least one more game than each team behind them. They’re also 28th in batting average (.223) and 22nd in OPS (.691).

If Tatís is able to produce at half the level he did over his eight-game Triple-A rehab assignment, Padres fans should be excited. He hit .515 with a 1.801 OPS to go along with seven home runs during his stint in the minors, seemingly going viral on a daily basis.

Tatís also played with the Padres in spring training, hitting .273 with a .772 OPS and two home runs over 16 exhibition games. In his last full season of action, Tatís proved to be one of the game’s best hitters, posting a .282 batting average and a .975 OPS to go along with an NL-best 42 home runs in the 2021 season.  

Seeing how well Tatís did in his rehab assignment, Padres catcher Brett Sullivan can’t help but be excited to see the young star return.

“He needs to get up here ASAP. I’ve never seen anything like that,” Sullivan told on Monday. “You guys are in for something special when he comes back. He’s ready.”

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