After stop at Chase Field, Fernando Tatis Jr. prepares for first game at Petco Park since suspension

Fernando Tatis Jr. lets out a laugh during the San Diego Padres’ pregame warmups at Chase Field. The April 20 game was Tatis’ return to the Padres lineup since serving an 80 game PED suspension. (Photo by John Cascella/Cronkite News)

Fernando Tatis Jr. takes his time to sign autographs for ticketed fans after completing on-field batting practice at Chase Field. (Photo by John Cascella/Cronkite News)

Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr. and Arizona Diamondbacks infielder Geraldo Perdomo hug it out before first pitch. (Photo by John Cascella/Cronkite News)

The Padres’ potential shortstops stand at attention during the National Anthem performance as fans awaited the start of the game and Fernando Tatis Jr.’s appearance. (Photo by John Cascella/Cronkite News)

Fernando Tatis Jr. signifies his appreciation of the Padres faithful by acknowledging the crowd. His return has been met with some boos, too. (Photo by John Cascella/Cronkite News)

Known for his on-field swagger, Fernado Tatis Jr. opted to wear the Air Jordan 1 “Washed Pink” in his return to MLB. (Photo by John Cascella/Cronkite News)

Putting on his batting glove, Tatis walks over to the on-deck circle as he gets ready to showcase his much-appreciated skills. (Photo by John Cascella/Cronkite News)

In 34 career games against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Tatis is hitting .341 with 45 hits and 16 home runs. (Photo by John Cascella/Cronkite News)

Ending the game 0 for 5, it marked Tatis’ sixth career game against the Diamondbacks without a hit. (Photo by John Cascella/Cronkite News)

Finishing the series against the Diamondbacks with 19 plate appearances, Fernando Tatis Jr. would knock a hit in each of the last three games. (Photo by John Cascella/Cronkite News)

In Fernando Tatis Jr.’s first game with the MLB pitch clock, the Padres would go on to win 7-5 in a 2:58 game. Now he returns to Petco Park tonight, his first visit there since his PED suspension. (Photo by John Cascella/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – After 564 days removed from the sport he loves, Fernando Tatis Jr. recently made his return to Major League Baseball at Chase Field.

Why so long? A wrist injury by the San Diego Padres standout was followed by an 80-game suspension for using performance enhance drugs, a violation that angered many teammates and fans. Monday night he returns to Petco Park to play in a game for the first time since Sept. 26, 2021.

“It’s great to be back out there with my boys,” Tatis said after his first game at Chase Field. “Just happy to get that ‘W’ and be back out there. Embraced every single moment, embraced the fans, embraced everything.”

The 2022 season was a lost one for Tatis. The then-23-year-old had suffered a fractured wrist in the offseason forcing him to miss months of the season. Then news broke on August 12 of that year that he had violated MLB’s drug policy after testing positive for clostebol. He argued that he took it to treat ringworm, unknowing of its consequences, but accepted the suspension and missed the remainder of the 2022 season, the 2022 playoffs and 20 games of the 2023 season.

The Padres’ unexpected NLCS run would cross off additional games from Tatis’ suspension, but the question remained: What could the Padres have done with the shortstop/outfielder in the heart of their order?

Wearing two chains on the Thursday matchup, Tatis’ cross chain pops out during his on-deck warmup. (Photo by John Cascella/Cronkite News)

Wearing two chains on the Thursday matchup, Tatis’ cross chain pops out during his on-deck warmup. (Photo by John Cascella/Cronkite News)

In those 564 days, the Padres made significant changes to their roster, most notably acquiring Juan Soto from the Washington Nationals. They also signed shortstop Xander Bogaerts to an 11-year, $280 million deal, solidifying Tatis’ stay in the outfield. Adding another perennial All-Star to the roster, the Padres had Bogaerts join a core of Tatis, Soto, and Manny Machado, adding up to just under $140 million in 2023 alone.

With Tatis missing the 2022 season, many, including Padres general manager A.J. Preller, began to question Tatis’ maturity levels. After signing a 14-year, $340 million extension in 2021, Tatis would post career numbers, hitting 42 home runs with an OPS of .975. Everyone had their eyes set on a huge 2022 campaign.

Tatis wasn’t completely removed from baseball and was able to play 16 games in spring training, hitting two home runs with a .273 batting average. When spring baseball came to a close, the three-year veteran was sent to Triple-A to keep active during the remaining 20-game suspension. In those eight games, Tatis would slug seven home runs, including a three-home run game.

By not facing any MLB pitching in 2022, Tatis’ 2023 will often involve facing pitchers for the first time. In his return against the Diamondbacks, he faced Ryne Nelson, Scott McGough and José Ruiz, all for the first time in his major league career. The result was an 0-for-5 effort with two strikeouts.

Despite the disappointing day at the plate, it was at Chase Field that Tatis seemed to have the most fun. With the friar faithful cheering on his every move, “Tatis” was shouted frequently. Partaking in both on-field batting practice and right-field drills, Tatis could be seen waving to fans and tossing up balls.

He looked pleased to be back. Clearly, so were his teammates and many fans.

John Cascella jahn kuh-SELL-uh (he/him)
Sports Visual Journalist, Phoenix

John Cascella expects to graduate in May 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Cascella has done photography for The State Press and freelance work covering the Arizona Complex League and Arizona Fall League.