SAN DIEGO — The laugh and smile are starting to return. So, too, is the fan adulation for Fernando Tatis Jr., at least in San Diego.
Still serving an 80-game suspension after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug, the superstar was warmly received at FanFest on Saturday, when thousands of fans jammed Petco Park for a preview of the most eagerly anticipated season in Padres history.
Tatis received sustained applause when he was introduced before a panel discussion on a grassy knoll just beyond center field that also included star teammates Manny Machado, Juan Soto and the newly signed Xander Bogaerts.
“I love you San Diego. … I’m not going to leave here for a really long time,” Tatis told the crowd, to more applause.
This season will be a redemption tour for Tatis, one of baseball’s biggest stars whose entire 2022 season was wiped out by a wrist injury and then the suspension. He was on the cusp of returning from surgery on his left wrist when he was suspended by MLB on Aug. 12. He missed the Padres’ stirring run to the NL Championship Series, where they lost to the Philadelphia Phillies.
“I’ve missed it a lot,” Tatis said during a news conference earlier in the day. “I mean, I missed a year of it. I’m not looking forward to missing anymore. It just feels great to be out there again.”
Tatis said the toughest part was missing the postseason. The Padres eliminated the 101-win New York Mets in the wild-card round before beating their biggest rival, the 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers, to reach the NLCS for the first time since 1998.
Ohtani set for WBC, future with Angels uncertain
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Although Shohei Ohtani’s long-term future with the Los Angeles Angels is decidedly uncertain as he heads into the final season under contract, the two-way superstar’s plans for the spring are all set.
Ohtani will make one start on the Cactus League mound this month for the Angels before he heads to Japan on March 1 for the World Baseball Classic, Halos general manager Perry Minasian said Saturday.
Whatever Ohtani wants to do in the tournament is entirely up him and the Japanese team, since the Angels will stick to their long-standing policy of allowing him to do whatever he feels is best for his growth on his unique career path.
“I am not worried about Shohei Ohtani,” Minasian said. “He’s been in Arizona for a while now. He’s preparing for the season. He’s doing everything he needs to do to be ready to go when the bell rings. He’ll get the proper work in when he needs it. He’s the least of my concerns.”
Ohtani’s future beyond 2023 might be the most of Minasian’s concerns, although the GM isn’t giving much insight into the Angels’ hopes of retaining the player who won the 2021 AL MVP award and finished second in last season’s vote after going 15-9 with a 2.33 ERA while also batting .273 with with 34 homers and 95 RBIs.
Fried loses arbitration case
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Pitcher Max Fried lost to the Atlanta Braves in salary arbitration on Saturday, and will make $13.5 million in the upcoming season instead of his $15 million request.
Mark Burstein, Fredric Horowitz and Jeanne Vonhof issued their decision a day after hearing arguments.
Despite the defeat, Fried matched the $13.5 million Gerrit Cole won in 2019 as the highest decided by an arbitration panel.
Fried won a $6.85 million salary last year in arbitration instead of the team’s $6.6 million proposal.
DODGERS: Los Angeles will retire the No. 34 jersey of pitcher Fernando Valenzuela during a three-day celebration this summer. Valenzuela was part of two World Series champion teams, winning the 1981 Rookie of the Year and Cy Young awards. He was a six-time All-Star during his 11 seasons in Los Angeles from 1980-90. He will be honored from Aug. 11-13 when the Dodgers host Colorado.