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Fernando Tatis Jr. return: Padres star officially reinstated to active roster

We’ve got the latest on Fernando Tatis Jr. as he gets set to make his return to the Padres lineup following an 80-game suspension.

Fernando Tatis Jr. of the San Diego Padres jogs around the bases after hitting a home run during a spring training game against the Los Angeles Angels on March 24, 2023 at the Tempe Diablo Stadium in Tempe, Arizona.  Photo by Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/Getty Images

Just over eight months after he was hit with an 80-game suspension — and over 18 months since he last appeared in a Major League game — our wait is finally over: Fernando Tatis Jr. is officially eligible to return to the San Diego Padres, putting one of baseball’s very brightest talents back on the field.

Tatis Jr. is expected to bat leadoff and start in right field for the Padres on Thursday afternoon against the Charlie Morton and the Atlanta Braves.

To say that this has been a long time coming would be a massive understatement. Tatis Jr. last appeared in an MLB game on October 3, 2021, the final game of the Padres’ 2021 season. Despite an injury to his left shoulder that limited him to just 130 games, the then-22-year-old still managed to lead the National League in homers that year with 42 — along with 25 steals and a sprint speed that Statcast placed among the very fastest in the game. Even as the shoulder issue threatened to move him from shortstop to the outfield, Tatis Jr. was at the height of his powers, the kind of transcendent athlete that comes along once in a generation.

And then it all fell apart. The next March, the Padres announced that Tatis Jr. had undergone surgery to repair a broken bone in his wrist that he’d suffered in a motorcycle accident that offseason. (When asked by a reporter when the accident had happened, Tatis Jr. replied, “Which one?”) He was supposed to be back within three months, but he was just beginning a rehab stint in the Minors on August 12 — when the bombshell report surfaced that Tatis Jr. had tested positive for Clostebol, a performance-enhancing substance in violation of Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

Tatis Jr. claimed that he’d inadvertently ingested Clostebol through a medication he was taking to treat ringworm — experts were...skeptical of that explanation, to say the least — but he decided not to appeal his 80-game suspension. He was placed on the restricted list, with no access to the team even as San Diego made a run to the 2022 NLCS.

All of which brings us back to today. Tatis Jr. stayed out of the limelight over the winter, as the Padres were busy stocking up on even more talent. (He’s spent the last couple of weeks doing truly heinous things to Triple-A pitching, just to offer everyone a little reminder of what they’d forgotten about in the intervening year and a half.) Quite a bit has changed in the 18 months since we last saw him play — from rule changes to Shohei Ohtani staking his claim as quite possibly the best player baseball has ever seen. But now, finally, one of baseball’s most talented, charismatic and occasionally exasperating stars is back, ready to show everyone that he deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Ohtani, Ronald Acuna, Aaron Judge and all the other faces of the sport — and to prove the doubters wrong.