SAN DIEGO — On Saturday afternoon, the Padres made Fernando Tatis Jr. available to speak with reporters for the first time since his season began — and it’s been an eventful season, to say the least.
The star shortstop addressed a number of important questions surrounding his first few weeks — including the status of his ailing left shoulder, whether his style of play needs to change, his early defensive woes and his message to the doubters.
On his ailing shoulder …
Tatis was asked, in Spanish, to put a percentage on his health right now.
“Ciento,” he said with a laugh — 100 percent.
In fact, Tatis said he’s been feeling 100 percent for a while now, and he even lobbied to return to the lineup the day after his injury. The Padres placed him on the injured list instead — a wise move, Tatis would later say.
“I wanted to play the next day,” he said. “But I know how it is. We’ve got to take care of everything. We’ve got to take a look from the doctors and make sure everything is stable, everything is good. I’ve been ready since the other day. But it was a great call from the boys to give me a couple days to get me stronger.”
On how he’ll handle the shoulder moving forward …
Tatis’ injury — a partial dislocation — requires daily pregame and postgame treatment and strengthening. But Tatis noted he’s no longer feeling any effects of the injury, which he sustained while taking a vicious swing in a game against the Giants on April 5.
“It’s essentially maintenance,” Tatis said. “I’m not feeling any soreness, any pain, thank God. It’s just maintenance and trying to get it even stronger.”
On whether he needs to change his playing style …
Yes and no, Tatis said.
“Just [be] a little bit smarter,” Tatis said. “But then after that, I don’t feel I’m changing anything. I just call it being a little bit smarter.”
Tatis says he isn’t going to change his ultra-aggressive mindset, but he noted that there are mechanical tweaks he can make to ensure that he’s not at risk of injury.
One of those tweaks, which has received plenty of publicity over the past two weeks, is a focus on a two-hand follow-through. Tatis launched a 410-foot missile of a home run on Friday night vs. the Dodgers, and notably finished smoothly, with both hands on the bat.
“That’s stuff I’ve been doing already,” Tatis said. “Maybe now, a little bit more constantly.”
On whether he’s considered the possibility of surgery down the road …
Now that Tatis has sustained one shoulder dislocation — perhaps two, if that was also the case when he missed time during Spring Training with a shoulder ailment as well — it puts him at a higher risk of further dislocations.
Tatis can mitigate that risk with proper treatment and maintenance. But it will remain a possibility. Surgery to repair his shoulder would address that issue, but it would also force Tatis to miss significant time. Right now, Tatis doesn’t believe surgery is an inevitably, though he hopes to make it through the season healthy, before reassessing during the offseason.
“I don’t feel like it,” Tatis said. “But I’ll reach out to [the doctors] after the season to see how everything’s looking. But I definitely feel 100 percent. Let’s see what is continuing to happen. … I feel like that’s a thing I can manage.”
On his shaky defense …
Tatis has committed an astonishing seven errors in six games this season, including two on Friday night against the Dodgers.
There were mitigating circumstances surrounding a few of those misplays. (His sixth-inning throwing error on Friday was the result of second baseman Jake Cronenworth being late to cover on a potential force out, and Cronenworth took full blame afterward.)
Still, the bulk of Tatis’ errors have simply been poor defensive plays or mental lapses, and he didn’t shy away from that when asked about it for the first time.
“I’m just missing stuff,” Tatis said. “A couple throwing errors and a little bit of everything. We’re going to put it back together, and go back to the field.”
On facing the Dodgers …
Tatis always loves it. And — even if he didn’t love the result — he loved it Friday night, too.
“It’s what people have been saying: We’re playing World Series games,” Tatis said. “It’s pretty fun. It’s great baseball all the way around. It’s a constant battle.”
On the doubters …
“At the end of the day, you just try and ignore those people,” Tatis said. “I’ve learned to block those things because everyone has a different opinion. When that happens, there are a lot of people that think positively, but there are even more people that think negatively. At the end of the day, the best thing you could do is ignore it. Because if you start paying attention to it, you’re going to go crazy. What I try to do is lean on my family and their support. Those are the only people that I pay attention to at the end of the day.”