SAN DIEGO (AP) — Prized rookie shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. finished a pregame media session and then hustled off to a hitters meeting as a teammate jokingly hollered, “Hurry up, we need you.”
Tatis returned to the San Diego Padres on Thursday and vowed to play at full speed after missing 34 games with a strained left hamstring.
The 20-year-old was scheduled to bat leadoff when the Padres opened a four-game series against the Washington Nationals. Tatis’ return means Manny Machado moves back to third base.
Tatis said it took a bit longer to get back than he anticipated but he understood taking the time to make sure it was healed.
He has no plans to ease back.
“I’m not a liar. I’m going 100 percent,” Tatis said after returning from a brief rehab assignment with Double-A Amarillo. “There’s a part of me telling me to go slower but sorry, I can’t play the game like that.”
He was hurt in a loss at Washington on April 28 when he did an awkward split while stretching for a throw at second base.
The Padres went on to lose that game and were 15-19 without Tatis. They were 31-31 going into Thursday night’s game.
Long-suffering fans got a burst of hope when the Padres signed Machado to a $300 million, 10-year contract early in spring training and then told Tatis less than 48 hours before the season’s first pitch that he had made the big league roster.
“It’s great to have him back,” manager Andy Green said. “He played a few rehab games in Amarillo; looked really good. Every report we got was really positive. Physically feels good. We feel like he’s ready to go. Good to have him in the lineup at shortstop.”
Tatis, whose father was a big league infielder, was hitting .300 with six homers and 13 RBIs when he was hurt.
The first time he reached in his rehab assignment, he stole second.
Tatis said he was “showing that I’m feeling great and I’m good to go.”
“I wanted to be here,” he added. “Seeing the games only on TV and seeing the boys playing, I wish I could be on the field every day.”
To make room for Tatis, infielder Ty France was optioned to Triple-A El Paso.
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