Optimism always prevails among all 30 teams at the start of a new season, but especially if you play for the San Diego Padres. With a club record payroll of over $216 million in 2021, the Friars had expected to go deep into the post season but fizzled down the stretch, costing manager Jayce Tingler his job.
Now under the guidance of veteran skipper Bob Melvin, the Padres seemed to finally have all pieces of the puzzle in place, at least until it was discovered that star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. had not fully recovered from a motorcycle mishap this past winter in the Dominican Republic. Few details were ever released about the incident and when asked about how the accident occurred, the oft-injured 22 year old answered, “which one?” What was certain is that Fernando’s left wrist would require surgery and he would remain on the IL for at least 60 days.
“It’s a huge blow, but the next guys need to step it up,” noted San Diego’s All-Star third baseman Manny Machado.
Indeed, the organization’s top prospect C.J. Abrams and slick fielding Ha-seong Kim have filled in admirably at the key shortstop position. However, it has been the clutch play of Miami residents Machado and Cuban-American Eric Hosmer who have kept the Padres dangerous in the early going.
Machado has been on a terror with slash line of .354/.404/.531 and an OPS of .897. Manny has gone yard only twice, but has five doubles, eight RBI’s and has sprayed to ball to all fields. The veteran Hosmer, on the trading block for months due to his $20 million salary, also has five doubles and has hit a sizzling .378 while playing a masterful first base. Jurickson Profar has also shined with his defense in left field, and has shown surprising power by launching three bombs, one which was a grand slam shot.
Meanwhile, manager Melvin reportedly had a private office discussion with Tatis Jr. on the personal responsibilities attached with his 13 year, $340 million backloaded contract. Then as soon as he was cleared to do more cardio-based activities, Fernando engaged in a two on two soccer match with other teammates in the Petco Park outfield. So when the youngster fans call “El Niño” hit the turf, landing on his right hip and wrist, a photo of the fall blew up on Twitter.
“He’s got a brace on and it’s padded,” said Melvin, peppered with questions from media-types. “That’s all I have on that.”
Perhaps the new skipper to has learned to roll with the punches concerning his talented franchise player. Whether it’s playing baseball or during personal activities, Tatis Jr. lives life with reckless abandon. It’s his competitive nature. Fans and teammates alike must simply hold their collective breaths and hope that Fernando will dance through rehab and get back on the field soon.
In 2021, Fernando Tatis Jr. missed 32 games and still clobbered 42 home runs, finishing third in the National League MVP voting. If the Padres are to overtake the Dodgers in the NL West, this kid needs to be part of the mix, and better sooner than later.