Monday’s game was the Dominicans’ 130th game. Fernando Tatis Jr. with the Padres this season. What is striking is that it was a personal best for the gardener.
With two weeks to go, Tatis looks set to far surpass his personal record for games played – even though he missed the first 20 games of the season while completing his doping ban.
In the five seasons since Tatis’ debut, few have doubted his impressive talent. Tatis’ biggest mistake at some point, even before he missed all of 2022, was his inability to stay on the field.
The Quisqueyan listened to the criticism. And he has set a goal of changing that notion by 2023 – although he acknowledges that this is justified.
“I didn’t play enough,” Tatis said recently. “I know what I’m capable of when I’m on the baseball field. And I can repeat it every day. So I had to think about what adjustment or change in mindset was needed to change all that.”
In fact, Tatis hinted that he needed to mature to understand what it would take to stay on the field. Now he plays every day. And in fact, a lot of that is due to the wrist and shoulder surgeries he underwent last year after his suspension. These complaints are no longer a problem.
Most importantly, Tatis noted that he has changed his mentality. So what does the fact that you’re about to set a personal record for games played mean?
“That means the plan worked,” Tatis explained. “Just making smart decisions to stay on the field. I’ll prepare a little better. I had to learn to listen to my body better. Apparently the more you get hurt, the more you learn about your body. But I guess the main thing is that I need to be a little smarter.”
“A little sharper” doesn’t even begin to describe him, considering the reasons Tatis hasn’t had playing time in the past – the suspension, the wrist injury in a motorcycle accident and the ongoing discomfort in his back. The shoulder once refused to undergo surgery.
But in 2023, Tatis worked to change that narrative. In the weeks following his suspension, he spoke to his teammates and apologized. Then he came to training in February and from the perspective of his teammates, his actions in pre-season were excuse enough.
After a season away from baseball, Tatis has now spent virtually an entire year on the field. He has only been out of action for one game since his suspension.
“I don’t plan on playing him every day,” Friars manager Bob Melvin said recently. “I was expecting maybe 10 in a row and a free or something like that. But because of the position we were in early on, because of his athletic ability, because he played so well in right field, it was difficult to give him rest days.”
So Tatis hasn’t stopped playing, and the Ranger loves that. He’s definitely better than the alternative – even if his 2023 campaign didn’t live up to his huge expectations.
Last weekend, Tatis hit his 25th home run of the season, becoming the franchise’s first player with multiple seasons of at least 25 homers and 25 home runs. When asked if this was a successful year, Tatis all but replied that it wasn’t. If you play every day, you can expect more.
Tatis entered Tuesday’s game with a respectable .262/.327/.464 offensive line. Still, each of these numbers represents the worst of his career.
That’s perhaps to be expected from a player who missed all of 2022 and then dealt with the aftereffects of multiple injuries. That’s why Tatis assures that 2024 will be noticeably different – both for him and for the Padres.
“I have no doubt that next year will be completely different in everything that is positive,” Tatis explained. “I know there will be some history. I won’t try to go faster. But I just know it’s going to be one of those great seasons.”