CHICAGO — Three months ago, on the first day of spring training, Padres president of baseball operations AJ Preller met with reporters and offered a timeline for the return of his superstar shortstop. With three months of hindsight, we now know that the schedule was too optimistic.
On March 14, Preller predicted a layoff of up to three months for Fernando Tatis Jr., who suffered a scaphoid fracture in his left wrist during the offseason.
Precisely three months to the day – when Tatis had yet to swing a bat since sustaining the injury – Preller once again addressed reporters with some sobering news.
“Another MRI continues to show healing, but it wasn’t quite level for…a full green light,” Preller said. “Basically, we are in a situation where we will improve week by week.”
The Padres, meanwhile, continue to win even without Tatis in the lineup. Their victory over the Cubs on Monday propelled them into a virtual tie with the Dodgers atop National League West. At 38-24, the Padres are off to their best 62-game start in franchise history.
But that hot start was largely a testament to deep rotation, solid defense and Manny Machado’s performance. Overall, the Padres’ offensive performance has been mediocre. It’s a range that could clearly use a bit more noise – and in particular more production at shortstop.
“We expect him to come back – it’s only a matter of time,” Preller said. “I don’t think it changes like, ‘Hey, we need to do something from a roster perspective.’ Guys, they’ve been playing well, and we’re finding a lot of ways to win games.”
Tatis underwent the scans in Arizona on Monday with Dr. Donald Sheridan, who performed the operation on March 16. Preller noted that Dr. Sheridan was pleased with the progress Tatis has made in strengthening his wrist.
But he hadn’t healed enough for Dr. Sheridan to allow Tatis to start swinging, and the Padres aren’t about to rush him into action.
“From the start it was all about the long term and a long relationship with Fernando in his career,” Preller said. “We’re going to be very careful. It goes along the lines of that.”
For now, Tatis will continue to do some level of baseball activity, not swinging. He was traveling with the team and was scheduled to join the Padres in Chicago on Tuesday night.
So far, Tatis has been all the way with his pitching progress and he’s done a lot of work on his conditioning. He was able to take lightly rolled ground balls and play light catches, but the Padres were cautious.
“He wants to get back out there and play,” Preller said. “He obviously likes to play. … I think he understands that it’s about what’s best for him in the long run. I know he’s feeling good and he feels like he can go out there and do that. But he was very mature in, ‘Hey, I’m going to trust what the doctors say.’
“It’s not just about next week. It’s about the next few months and, really, the next 10 plus years, career-wise. If that means we’re going to have to take it week in and week out here in that moment, he understood that very well.”