Tatis, Soto team up to rethink Padres outfield strategy
Day 2 at Padres Spring Training includes new starting pitcher, fielding adjustments
PEORIA, AZ — Despite clouds and splashes from soaked skies, there was a rainbow across the fields of the Peoria Sports Complex – stretched across the laughing faces of the Padres during fielding drills.
Usually a dropped ball or two would cause frustration. But when its a superstar shortstop readjusting into a career in the outfield, all you can do is smile – and keep working at it. That’s the role Fernando Tatis is in now – training to be a right fielder in 2023, while Juan Soto makes the permanent move to left field in his stead.
“We still have to get through spring [and 20 games],” Padres manager Bob Melvin said. “[Tatis] hasn’t played in a year and half…and shortstop is a taxing position. From where he’s come from, he just wants to play.”
“In left field you have to be more aggressive,” Soto said. “You see more balls in left field, but that’s fine…I already talked with Bob and we have a plan.”
There’s change in the infield as well, as several Padres get comfortable with new positions in 2023. Enter Xander Bogaerts and his $281 million salary to the shortstop position – which means Ha Seong Kim to second base, and Jake Cronenworth playing at first base.
In three major league seasons, Cronenworth has already spent decent innings at three positions, but first base has the least service time. 54 games, 34 starts, and a .997 fielding percentage – his best between first, second, and shortstop.
“I’ve always been comfortable moving around,” Cronenworth said. “I think everyone knows what we can achieve.”
“It should be fun,” Bogaerts said. “Just gotta try locking it down…it won’t be that much of a difference.”
The Padres also on the verge of a six-man rotation, with MLB.com reporting the team has agreed to terms with 31-year-old veteran pitcher Michael Wacha. The right-handed pitcher has slowed in recent years, but had a comeback season with the Red Sox. Wacha had a 3.32 ERA last season in Boston, but in his heyday was the 2013 NLCS MVP with the Cardinals.
This opens the possibility of an April starting rotation that includes re-signed pitchers Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove and Nick Martinez, veteran Blake Snell, and free agent pickup Seth Lugo from the Mets.
“The more arms we get, the better,” Musgrove said. “He played with some of the best in St. Louis….I know there’s a lot of experience there.”