San Diego Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr. says ‘no apologies’ for 80-game drug suspension, will undergo shoulder surgery

SAN DIEGO– Fernando Tatis Jr. sat atop the sidelines on the first base side at Petco Park on Tuesday afternoon and spoke uninvited for 250 seconds. It was measured but unscripted, composed but visibly discouraged. He mourned all the people he “failed” by testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance, and he vowed to make amends.

“I saw how my dreams turned into my worst nightmares,” Tatis said, flanked by fathers president of baseball operations AJ Preller and surrounded by dozens of members of the media.

“There’s no one else to blame but myself. I haven’t made the right decisions for the past few weeks, months, even since the start of the year. I made a mistake and I regret every step I’ve taken in these days. But there’s a long way to go. There’s a very long way to go. I’m going to remember how it feels, and I’m going to do it. so that I will never be in this position again. I know that I have a lot of love that I have to win back. I have a lot of work to do.

Eleven days earlier, Major League Baseball announced that 23-year-old Tatis had tested positive for the anabolic steroid Clostebol, triggering an 80-game suspension and instantly making him one of the most high-profile players punished under his drug program, up there with Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez and Robinson Cano. Tatis found out about his suspension in late July, he said, and briefly considered appealing.

On the morning of August 12, with news of his suspension on the horizon, Tatis booked a flight out of San Antonio, where he was in the final stages of his rehab mission, without alerting the team.

“I freaked out,” Tatis said. “I panicked.”

Six days later, when the Padres returned from their road trip, Tatis met Preller in person. He then met with Padres president Peter Seidler on Saturday, then held a 15-20 minute players-only meeting at the Padres clubhouse in the early afternoon, moments before addressing the media for the first time.

“A lot of tough love,” said Tatis, who fielded questions in two languages ​​for about 20 minutes, about those meetings. “But at the same time, I feel like there was great communication. Right words were there. In the end, they gave me a chance.”

Tatis stuck to his original claim that the positive test was triggered by a skin drug containing the steroid, the one his father identified on a TV show in his native Dominican Republic as Trofobol. Tatis said he had been “suffering from a skin infection” for some time and had received the drugs in the Dominican Republic, beyond the jurisdiction of Padres medical staff. He called failing to check the medicine for a banned substance “a stupid mistake”.

“There is no excuse,” Tatis said. “There are no excuses. I need to do a much better job of what’s going on inside my body. There are no excuses for these actions.”

Tatis reiterated that he tested positive for steroids because he was tirelessly trying to battle a skin condition – he and his father had previously clarified it was ringworm – and not because he was trying to improve his performance or recover faster from the wrist. injury that had kept him sidelined all season. When asked what he would say to fans who didn’t believe his version of events, Tatis replied, “That I’m going to give them a story to make them believe in me again.”

The delay between Tatis’ positive test and the announcement of his suspension was the result of his brief navigation of the appeals process – a process which, under a drug policy jointly agreed to by MLB and the Association of MLB players, is supposed to be played in secret, without the knowledge of the team. Tatis said he ‘felt like we had a very strong case’ but was told by what he loosely called his ‘team’ that he was unlikely to prevail, which made him prompted to begin bleeding the suspension immediately.

“Every relationship is worth having — there will be great times, there will be tough times,” Preller said. “I’ve talked to Fernando a lot about mistakes. We all make mistakes. I’ve made a lot of mistakes here as general manager of this team because I’m sure the Padres fans will let me know in time. time. But the key is how you learn from those mistakes, how you grow from those mistakes, what you do in the future.”

Tatis’ charisma, flair and otherworldly talent made him one of the faces of the sport at an early age and earned him a historic 14-year, $340 million extension from the Padres in February 2021. Tatis is the first player in baseball history to amass 80 home runs and 50 stolen bases in the first 300 games of his career. But by the end of this year, he will have played just 273 of a possible 546 regular season games in his first four seasons. He missed the final seven weeks of the 2019 season due to a lower back stress reaction, spent all of 2021 dealing with a wayward left shoulder and will ultimately miss the entirety of 2022 for factors that were apparently well within his control – a wrist injury that likely occurred in a motorcycle accident in December, and now a positive drug test that will also rule him out at the start of 2023.

Tatis said on Tuesday he regretted getting on the bike and revealed he will soon have shoulder surgery which he originally decided against at the end of the 2021 season. No date has been set, but Tatis is expected to be ready for full baseball activities by the start of spring training, which he is cleared to attend despite still being suspended.

“I felt it coming back a bit,” Tatis said when asked why he decided to go ahead with the surgery. “I wasn’t the best version there.”

Tatis’ suspension was a blow to a Padres team with championship aspirations. Less than two weeks earlier, Preller had significantly bolstered a needy lineup with the addition of John Sotoa 23-year-old player who is already one of the best hitters in baseball history. Josh Bell and Brandon Dry have also been added. The Padres were expected to field one of the fastest growing offenses in the sport once Tatis returned, pairing him with a decorated pitching staff who had also added Josh Hader.

Tatis’ suspension was revealed to the team 30 minutes before a Friday night game in Washington, D.C. After it was over, some of the players – including Joe Musgrove and Mike Clevinger – makes pointed remarks about the maturity and reliability of Tatis. On Tuesday, the players took on a more sympathetic tone.

“People make mistakes,” Musgrove said. “It’s something that we’re definitely not going to keep over his head for the rest of his career. I know there are fans who will do it and people are going to feel what they want. feel, but that’s something that I pointed out for him — I think the most important people are the people in this room and the staff and the people you’re going to be playing with. I think he did a very good job explaining to us what happened and how sorry he was and the remorse he showed. It’s not an easy conversation to have, but I think the first step to changing things up here and preparing everyone for his return has been having this conversation.

“We all make mistakes, and ultimately we have to look in the mirror,” the Padres third baseman said Manny Machado added. “We’ve all made stupid mistakes. In the end, we just have to move on and learn from them. He came here and spoke to the group, said what he needed to say. At the end of day, we’re all family here, we all support each other.”

Tatis was remorseful in his conversation with his teammates, which was followed by a private meeting with Padres manager Bob Melvin. At one point, he asked his teammates for help – with the rise no doubt to follow, especially when it comes to his public image.

When asked what he would say to kids who used to look up to him and can’t anymore, Tatis replied: “That I get. I get how they feel. I was a fan. J grew up watching this game. And if my favorite player would have done something like me, I would have felt the same. I would have felt disappointed. I would have felt disappointed. I really understand how they feel. But one thing I’m going to make sure of is that when I get back, I’ll regain their trust.”

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