Tatis Jr. returns as the leadoff hitter in right field

El Nino is coming. It could be quite a storm.

For 563 days, Fernando Tatis Jr. was unable to play baseball for the Padres. Tonight, one suspension and three surgeries later, he’ll do it.

Tatis will make his long-awaited return Thursday night in Arizona, with his 80-game PED suspension coming to an end.

Manager Bob Melvin placed Fernando Tatis Jr. first in the order and in right field.

1- Fernando Tatis Jr. (RF)

2- Juan Soto (LF)

3- Manny Machado (3B)

4- Xander Bogaerts (SS)

5- Jake Cronenworth (1B)

6- Matt Carpenter (DH)

7- Kim Ha Seong (SS)

8- Trent Grisham (CF)

9- Aaron Nola (P)

The Padres get back an MVP-caliber player at the top of their lineup and in right field (Tatis’s new position with the arrival of shortstop Xander Bogaerts). Meanwhile, Tatis, one of the game’s most beloved superstars when he last stepped foot on a major league field, returns to a different landscape. She has made it clear that she doesn’t know what to expect.

“I’m just looking forward to it,” Tatis said in February at the Padres FanFest. “I have really learned from what happened to me in the last year. I really want to redeem myself.”

Here’s what you need to know about Tatis’ return:

A quick summary

Tatis broke his left wrist in a motorcycle accident in December 2021 and underwent surgery before the season that ruled him out for at least the first three months. During his long recovery, Tatis tested positive for Clostebol, a performance-enhancing substance.

The positive test happened last July, and after Tatis decided not to appeal, he was suspended for 80 games starting in August. Tatis claimed that he took Clostebol as part of a medication to treat a skin infection without consulting with team doctors.

“At the end of the day, there are no excuses,” Tatis said last summer. “I need to do a much better job with what’s going on inside my body. There are no excuses for these actions… It was a stupid mistake. It was me being reckless.”

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What is Tatis’ state of health?

When we last saw Tatis, he was posting MVP caliber numbers in 2021 while also missing time on multiple occasions due to a rogue left shoulder. Tatis initially opted not to have the operation. But after his suspension, he underwent a shoulder repair. It’s a trade that has proven difficult for many other major leaguers, but Tatis has said his shoulder feels 100 percent, and significantly better than when he hit 42 home runs with a .975 OPS in 2021.

As for his wrist, Tatis underwent a second operation last October, a procedure designed to strengthen the joint and ensure its long-term stability. Tatis has said that his wrist has also fully healed.

Part of the impetus behind Tatis’s move to right field was that the Padres preferred to get him back after three surgeries. But given his performance in spring training, manager Bob Melvin has said there will be no restrictions for Tatis. (That means, yes, the Padres plan to loose him on the bases after they scaled back his aggressiveness in late 2021 due to health issues.)

What have you been doing?

After two weeks with Triple-A El Paso, Tatis rejoined the Padres on Monday. He is allowed to train with the team, although, under the terms of his suspension, he left the stadium before the gates opened.

Tatis formally rejoined the club during spring training. He started slowly, perhaps as expected after such a long absence. But after a 16-0 start in the Cactus League, he hit .462 the rest of the way with a pair of home runs. He stayed hot during his assigned rehab stint, hitting a ludicrous .515/.590/1.212, including 11-for-16 with six home runs in his last three games with El Paso.

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