Padres

‘He Just Wants to Play': Fernando Tatis Starts 2023 Spring Training With Outfield Drills

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There were some familiar faces in new places Tuesday as teams picked up the pace on the second day of spring training.

In Peoria, Arizona, suspended San Diego Padres star Fernando Tatis Jr. went through outfield drills alongside Juan Soto. Manager Bob Melvin said Soto will move from right field to left field, where he started his career with Washington in 2018. That presumably means Tatis, an All-Star at shortstop in 2021, will play right field when his 80-game drug suspension ends April 20, although the Padres haven't committed to that.

Soto, who came over from Washington in an Aug. 2 trade, will be moving back to left field after playing right field the last three seasons.

“Left is what we’re going to work on with him, and we’re going to try to keep him in that one spot,” Melvin said. The Padres haven't committed to Tatis in right, but that makes the most sense since he has a strong arm and center fielder Trent Grisham is coming off his second Gold Glove Award in three seasons.

The Padres don't need to rush into a decision on Tatis since he won't be active until April 20. He's a full participant in spring training after surgery on his troublesome left shoulder in early September, not quite a month after being suspended following a positive test for a performance-enhancing drug. Tatis made 16 starts in right field and seven starts in center field in 2021, when the Padres temporarily moved him from shortstop after he injured his shoulder.

Tatis missed all of 2022. He was on the cusp of returning from left wrist surgery when he was suspended.

“From where he's come from, he just wants to play and contribute and get out on the field," Melvin said. "He does a lot of his damage with the bat in his hand.”

Xander Bogaerts will play shortstop after signing a $280 million, 11-year deal in December. That pushes Kim Ha-seong to second base and Jake Cronenworth to first.

The Padres also added some pitching depth Tuesday.

Right-hander Michael Wacha agreed in principle to a contract with the Padres, according to two people with knowledge of the deal. The people spoke with The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the deal is still being finalized and pending Wacha passing a physical. The addition of the 31-year-old Wacha will allow the Padres to start the season with a six-man rotation.

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