Padres discuss playing Fernando Tatis Jr. at multiple positions

LAS VEGAS -- The San Diego Padres, having concluded their march through the postseason, are now clear on the official end to Fernando Tatis Jr.'s suspension -- April 20, barring any postponements. But there are other matters to sort through.

The first is Tatis' position. The second, and most important, is his health.

Tatis underwent surgery in early September to repair the labrum of a left shoulder that suffered a handful of subluxations during the 2021 season, then had a second surgery around the middle of October to repair the left wrist he injured in an offseason motorcycle accident, this one to further stabilize the scaphoid bone.

Padres president of baseball operations A.J. Preller, speaking from the general managers meetings in Las Vegas, said he's hopeful Tatis can begin baseball activities in the first half of January, which would put him in line to be a full participant at the start of spring training.

Where Tatis will play at that point, however, remains to be seen. He will at the very least be a part-time shortstop, but that's also the position where Ha-Seong Kim played Gold Glove-caliber defense last season. Tatis could also see some time in center field, bouncing back and forth in what would end up as an unconventional platoon between the right-handed-hitting Kim and the left-handed-hitting Trent Grisham. But some time in left field could also be in play, perhaps dependent on how the Padres fill the position in the wake of Jurickson Profar's opt-out.

"I've talked to him personally about position," Preller said Wednesday. "He wants to win, that's the No. 1 thing, and we want to get him back on the field. I think the next six, eight weeks, going into spring training -- we'll make sure he's real clear on what the expectations are, definitely get his feedback some more as we see what the options are for the roster and how he fits in.

"Getting him back on the field is the priority, but as we get into the next couple months, we'll get more into what position that looks like. And if it's gonna be playing multiple spots, we'll talk about that as well."

Tatis, 23, missed the entire 2022 season, spending the first four months recovering from the wrist injury and then getting hit with an 80-game suspension after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance just as he was on the precipice of a return near the middle of August. The Padres still owe Tatis $324 million over the next 12 years and have talked about the importance of him taking more accountability after at least a couple of glaring missteps.

Preller, who maintained an open dialogue with Tatis as the Padres advanced into the National League Championship Series in October, is hopeful.

"He's hungry to come back," Preller said when asked about his takeaways from his recent conversations with Tatis. "I think he knows he's got some doubters out there, rightfully so, because he made a mistake. I think he was excited about the team success, but I know he wants to be a bigger part of it, so just all those mixed emotions from his standpoint. He's had a good last couple months in terms of just owning up to the mistakes and having the surgery, which was a good step, and he's been diligent so far in his rehab. I think he's as excited as anybody to come back, and he has a lot to prove. That's kind of been the mindset I get from him -- he's got a lot to prove out there."