Suspended Padres star Tatis plans on ‘redeeming myself’

Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

SAN DIEGO – The laugh and smile are starting to return. So, too, is the fan adulation for Fernando Tatis Jr., at least in San Diego.

Still serving an 80-game suspension after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug, the superstar was warmly received at FanFest on Saturday, when thousands of fans jammed Petco Park for a preview of the most eagerly anticipated season in Padres history.

Tatis received sustained applause when he was introduced before a panel discussion on a grassy knoll just beyond center field that also included star teammates Manny Machado, Juan Soto and the newly signed Xander Bogaerts.

“I love you San Diego. . I’m not going to leave here for a really long time,” Tatis told the crowd, to more applause.

This season will be a redemption tour for Tatis, one of baseball’s biggest stars whose entire 2022 season was wiped out by a wrist injury and then the suspension. He was on the cusp of returning from surgery on his left wrist when he was suspended by MLB on Aug. 12. He missed the Padres’ stirring run to the NL Championship Series, where they lost to the Philadelphia Phillies.

“I’ve missed it a lot,” Tatis said during a news conference earlier in the day. “I mean, I missed a year of it. I’m not looking forward to missing anymore. It just feels great to be out there again.”

Tatis said the toughest part was missing the postseason. The Padres eliminated the 101-win New York Mets in the wild-card round before beating their biggest rival, the 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers, to reach the NLCS for the first time since 1998.

“It has given me a lot of fuel, trust me,” Tatis said. “I don’t want to put much words into it, I more want to prove myself on the field, just get back to the field with my boys. I definitely missed that fire, being in the jungle with them. It was definitely a dagger to my heart and now I’m looking forward to being on that front line.”

Tatis blamed his positive PED test on a cream he said he took for ringworm. He was already drawing scrutiny after breaking his left wrist in December 2021, reportedly in a motorcycle accident in his native Dominican Republic that required surgery in March. After his suspension was announced, Tatis had surgery on his troublesome left shoulder.

Tatis said he learned from all that happened to him in the last year. “I’m really looking forward to redeeming myself,” he said.

He’s been taking batting practice, catching flyballs and fielding grounders for about a month. He expects to be a full participant at spring training and be ready when he’s eligible to rejoin the active roster on April 20.

Tatis said his shoulder “feels really good. Everything that we have been doing feels back to normal. I’m as close to 100% as I’ve been in the last two years. It feels like it was the perfect time to do it and I’m really glad we decided to get it out of the way.”

When Tatis returns, it won’t be at shortstop. The Padres signed Bogaerts to a $280 million, 11-year contract in early December. Tatis will likely play in the outfield, although which position hasn’t been determined.

“I’ve got to talk to my manager,” he said with a laugh. “But I’m open. I feel this is a great team we have, it’s a great roster. I feel everybody’s on the same page and that page is winning. So, whatever it takes we’re going to do it.”

Asked about the reaction he’s sure to get on the road, he said: “I feel like I’ve seen everything, what this game can bring you, what the fans can bring you, and I’m definitely looking forward to that challenge. It’s going to be fun and it’s going to be one of the most emotional years, I feel like, in my career. I’m looking to embrace it and looking to what’s going to come.”

Tatis, who plays with a swagger, was an All-Star in 2021.

“He’s a big part of this team, a big part of this organization, and we’re going to be with him the whole way,” said Machado, who finished second in NL MVP voting. “To have him back healthy, to have him back in that lineup and have him do the things that he’s capable of doing, is huge.

“He was a big, big part of our lineup in the past and he’s going to be a big part of the lineup this year for us. I know he’s going to have a monster year and he’s going to take us to the promised land,” Machado said.

MLB free agent watch: Shohei Ohtani leads possible 2023-24 class

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CHICAGO – The number will follow Shohei Ohtani until it is over. No, not Ohtani’s home runs or strikeouts or any of his magnificent numbers from the field. Nothing like that.

It’s all about how much. As in how much will his next contract be worth.

Ohtani is among several players going into their final seasons before they are eligible for free agency. There is still time for signatures and press conferences before opening day, but history shows a new contract becomes less likely once the real games begin.

There is no real precedent for placing a value on Ohtani’s remarkable skills, especially after baseball’s epic offseason spending spree. And that doesn’t factor in the potential business opportunities that go along with the majors’ only truly global star.

Ohtani hit .273 with 34 homers and 95 RBIs last season in his fifth year with the Los Angeles Angels. The 2021 AL MVP also went 15-9 with a 2.33 ERA in 28 starts on the mound.

He prepared for this season by leading Japan to the World Baseball Classic championship, striking out fellow Angels star Mike Trout for the final out in a 3-2 victory over the United States in the final.

Ohtani, who turns 29 in July, could set multiple records with his next contract, likely in the neighborhood of a $45 million average annual value and quite possibly reaching $500 million in total.

If the Angels drop out of contention in the rough-and-tumble AL West, Ohtani likely becomes the top name on the trade market this summer. If the Angels are in the mix for the playoffs, the pressure builds on the team to get something done before possibly losing Ohtani in free agency for nothing more than a compensatory draft pick.

So yeah, definitely high stakes with Ohtani and the Angels.

Here is a closer look at five more players eligible for free agency after this season:


Nola, who turns 30 in June, went 11-13 with a 3.25 ERA in 32 starts for Philadelphia last year. He also had a career-best 235 strikeouts in 205 innings for the NL champions.

Nola was selected by the Phillies with the seventh overall pick in the 2014 amateur draft. There were extension talks during spring training, but it didn’t work out.

“We are very open-minded to trying to sign him at the end of the season,” President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski said. “We’re hopeful that he’ll remain a Phillie for a long time.”


Chapman hit 36 homers and drove in 91 runs for Oakland in 2019. He hasn’t been able to duplicate that production, but the three-time Gold Glover finished with 27 homers and 76 RBIs in 155 games last year in his first season with Toronto.

Chapman turns 30 on April 28. Long one of the game’s top fielding third basemen, he is represented by Scott Boras, who generally takes his clients to free agency.


Hernández was acquired in a November trade with Toronto. He hit .267 with 25 homers and 77 RBIs in his final year with the Blue Jays. He was terrific in 2021, batting .296 with 32 homers, 116 RBIs and a .870 OPS.

The change of scenery could help the 30-year-old Hernández set himself up for a big payday. He is a .357 hitter with three homers and seven RBIs in 16 games at Seattle’s T-Mobile Park.


The switch-hitting Happ is coming off perhaps his best big league season, setting career highs with a .271 batting average, 72 RBIs and 42 doubles in 158 games. He also won his first Gold Glove and made the NL All-Star team for the first time.

Chicago had struggled to re-sign its own players in recent years, but it agreed to a $35 million, three-year contract with infielder Nico Hoerner on Monday. The 28-year-old Happ, a first-round pick in the 2015 amateur draft, is on the executive subcommittee for the players’ union.


Urías, who turns 27 in August, likely will have plenty of suitors if he reaches free agency. He went 17-7 with an NL-low 2.16 ERA in 31 starts for the NL West champions in 2022, finishing third in NL Cy Young Award balloting. That’s after he went 20-3 with a 2.96 ERA in the previous season.

Urías also is a Boras client, but the Dodgers have one of the majors’ biggest payrolls. Los Angeles also could make a run at Ohtani, which could factor into its discussions with Urías’ camp.