CHICAGO — Three months ago, on the first day of Spring Training, Padres president of baseball operations A.J. Preller met with reporters and offered a timetable for the return of his superstar shortstop. With three months of hindsight, we now know that timetable was overly optimistic.
On March 14, Preller predicted an absence of up to three months for Fernando Tatis Jr., who had sustained a fractured scaphoid bone in his left wrist during the offseason.
Precisely three months to the day — with Tatis yet to swing a bat since he sustained the injury — Preller addressed reporters again with a bit of sobering news.
“Another MRI scan continues to show healing, but it was not quite at the level for … a full green light,” Preller said. “Basically we’re in a spot where we’re going to progress week-to-week.”
The Padres, meanwhile, keep winning even without Tatis in the lineup. Their victory over the Cubs on Monday moved them into a virtual tie with the Dodgers atop the National League West. At 38-24, the Padres are off to their best 62-game start in franchise history.
But that hot start has been largely a testament to a deep rotation, a solid defense and the performance of Manny Machado. As a whole, the performance of the Padres’ offense has been middling. It’s a lineup that could clearly use a bit more thump – and particularly more production at shortstop.
“We’re expecting to have him back — it’s just a matter of when,” Preller said. “I don’t think it changes like, ‘Hey, we need to do something from a roster standpoint.’ The guys, they’ve played well, and we’re finding a lot of ways to win games.”
Tatis underwent those scans in Arizona on Monday with Dr. Donald Sheridan, who performed the surgery on March 16. Preller noted that Dr. Sheridan was pleased with some level of progress Tatis has made in strengthening his wrist.
But it hadn’t quite healed enough for Dr. Sheridan to clear Tatis to begin swinging, and the Padres aren’t about to rush him back to action.
“From the beginning, this was all about the long term and a long relationship with Fernando in his career,” Preller said. “We’re going to be very cautious. This falls in line with that.”
For now, Tatis will continue doing some level of baseball activity, without swinging. He’s been traveling with the team and was slated to re-join the Padres in Chicago on Tuesday night.
Thus far, Tatis has been full-go in his throwing progression, and he’s worked heavily on his conditioning. He’s been able to take lightly rolled ground balls and play light catch, but the Padres have been cautious.
“He wants to get back on the field and play,” Preller said. “He obviously loves playing. … I think he understands that this is about what’s best for him long-term. I know he feels good, and he feels like he can go out there and do this. But he was very mature in: ‘Hey, I’m going to trust what the doctors are saying.’
“This is about not just the next week. This is about the next few months and, really, the next 10-plus years, in terms of a career. If that means we’re going to have to take it week-to-week here right now, he was very understanding of that.”