MLB

Tatis Jr. Returns in Time for Padres vs. Dodgers Series

Superstar shortstop back from shoulder injury much sooner than expected

On April 5, Fernando Tatis Jr.'s shoulder popped in and out of the socket during a swing against the Giants. It's called a subluxation, which also damages the labrum and hurts like (insert expletive of choice here).

This is the kind of injury that could make a player miss an entire season. Tatis is missing 10 days.

The Padres activated their franchise player from the Injured List before Friday's game against the Dodgers at Petco Park. Rookie Tucupita Marcano was optioned to the alternate training site. Tatis is batting 2nd and playing shortstop and the timing of his return is not insignificant.

The Padres and Dodgers don’t like each other very much. Division foes usually don’t, but this year the lack of fondness is rooted in something deeper.

Los Angeles has been so dominant on the field, winners of eight straight National League West titles and the 2020 World Series, that it’s been hard to say anyone is their true “rival.”

Over the last decade or so a Padres-Dodgers series was a lopsided formality. Then last year the Padres emerged as a legitimate threat to the Dodgers crown and got even better in the off-season to make 2021 a whole new ballgame.

“Yeah, I think it’s a little different heading in,” says Padres 1st baseman Eric Hosmer. “Obviously, having a little bit of history with them in the post-season last year, I think that will maybe spice things up a little bit.”

If you mean dropping a few gallons of cayenne pepper in the middle of the field, then yes, it’s going to be spicy.

When someone challenges a champion’s throne, there’s gonna be bad blood. Last year Trent Grisham took Clayton Kershaw deep and admired the shot with a bat flip. The Dodgers dugout let Trent know they were ticked off … so he chirped back and leapt on home plate.

In the National League Division Series, things ramped up in a big way. In Game 2, Manny Machado hit a home run off Kershaw, threw his bat, and let loose a string of colorful language.

Later in the game Fernando Tatis Jr. hit a missile to centerfield off Brusdar Graterol, only to be robbed of a home run by Cody Bellinger making one of the greatest catches in post-season history. Graterol threw his glove, his hat, and a few fingers, making Machado take exception … and a whole lot of yelling ensued.

The Dodgers won the series 3-0 en route to the world championship. But, with their epic off-season, the Padres have closed the gap dramatically and now stand as legitimate threats to the Dodgers supremacy.

This weekend is going be the Padres first chance to show the Dodgers they’re for real … or they’re still a few steps behind. The Friars are trying to play it cool.

“They know us. We know them. Like I said, we’re going to see three of the better arms, better pitchers in the league,” says Padres manager Jayce Tingler. “So, it should be a good test to kind of see where we’re at. We’re excited just to get back home and play.”

Yeah, about that pitching staff. The Dodgers rearranged their rotation to make sure Walker Buehler, Kershaw, and Trevor Bauer … their three best arms … would start during this series. What’s the implication there?

“I think you can read into it any way you want,” says Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “But I think that making sure guys are rested and feeling good going into a particular series is the ultimate goal.”

Yeah, but … Buehler is getting extra time off while Kershaw and Bauer are on normal rest. What’s the real reason for the change?

“Certainly this is a team that’s very talented so I hate to say there’s any more emphasis (on this series than others),” says Roberts. “But, obviously, you’re looking at the talent, the buildup … we’ll be ready for this series.”

Keep in mind that Roberts didn’t even alter his rotation during last year’s playoff run. This development means, maybe for the first time ever, the Padres have the Dodgers attention.

Maybe, they’re even striking a little bit of fear into the reigning champs.

LISTEN: With NBC 7 San Diego's Darnay Tripp and Derek Togerson behind the mic, On Friar will cover all things San Diego Padres. Interviews, analysis, behind the scenes...the ups, downs, and everything in between. Tap here to find On Friar wherever you listen to podcasts. 

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