FanFest is a happy day of anticipation for Padres fans, perhaps players too, but no one could blame Fernando Tatis Jr. if he felt some apprehension Saturday.
Tatis, the one-time darling of Major League Baseball, still must complete his 80-game suspension, leveled last August for use of performance-enhancing drugs yet he gamely appeared at FanFest.
Fans at Petco Park embraced the (likely) former shortstop warmly during the annual precursor to spring training, according to MLB.com, as he joshed with teammates, then took media questions.
But he knows he will have a lot to make up for in 2023 – and he also felt the ache of the Padres making a post-season run without him last season. He had been due to return from a wrist injury that kept him out of action for all of 2022 when the suspension came down.
“I more just want to prove myself in the field, just get back to the field with my boys,” he told MLB. “I definitely miss that fire, just being in the jungle with them.”
Other Padre news that emerged Saturday:
- Manny Machado and Juan Soto firmly deflected any contract talk, though reporters did try. Machado, an MVP finalist last year, may opt out of his 10-year deal at the end of 2023, while Soto, acquired in a deadline trade last year, has two more years on his pact. “My focus is on trying to bring a championship to this team and this city that has been waiting for it for a long time,” Machado told MLB.com. “For me it’s just about going out there and playing baseball.” As for Soto: “I’m happy to be here, that I have two more years,” he told MLB. “We’ll see what happens after that.”
- The dominos falling from shortstop Xander Bogaerts signing – a nice fit with the team’s desire to move Tatis away from shortstop, where he’s been injury prone – include Ha-Seong Kim being slotted in at second base, MLB.com reported. Soto can read the tea leaves, and is open to giving way at right field for Tatis, but he doesn’t want to shift back and forth. “If I’ve played one, I’ve stayed there, so I think that’s the main thing,” he told MLB.
The first spring training game is set for Feb. 24, with Opening Day to follow March 30 at Petco Park.