San Diego Padres SS Fernando Tatis Jr. looking to return from the Injured List, as an outfielder

Padres star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. preparing to play in outfield
from MLB Trade Rumors with Mark Polishuk and from

Fernando Tatis Jr. was placed on the injured list 10 days ago, and it seemed as though the Padres star was perhaps closer to a season-ending surgery on his bothersome shoulder than a return to the field. Now, however, it looks as if Tatis has once again recovered enough from his latest shoulder issue that he’ll be able to get back into San Diego’s lineup, and a new position appears to be in the works.

Rather than take any grounders at his normal shortstop position, Tatis has instead been working out as an outfielder, with Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune writing that the Padres are planning to shift Tatis between center field and right field when he returns from the 10-day IL. Tatis took batting practice on the field Monday, so if he continues to progress well, it seems like he might not be far away from yet another fairly quick recovery from what seemed to be a serious injury.

While surgery seems inevitable, Tatis and the Padres hope that the procedure can wait until after the season, and the move to the outfield will theoretically help reduce wear-and-tear on Tatis’ shoulder in the interim. There doesn’t appear to be any concern over how Tatis will be able to handle the position change from a defensive standpoint, as Padres outfield coach Wayne Kirby had rave reviews of Tatis’ workouts.

“His instincts are impeccable. He shouldn’t have any problem,” Kirby said about Tatis as an outfielder. “His speed will make up for whatever he doesn’t read. If he makes a false move, I’m sure he can make an adjustment.”

Tatis would play every day in center or right field, leaving Trent Grisham still getting the bulk of everyday assignments at the other position, while Tommy Pham and Wil Myers might end up splitting time in left field. (Myers has almost exclusively played outfield for the last four seasons, but given his past work at first base, he could possibly also find some at-bats in a platoon with Eric Hosmer.) With Tatis playing on the grass, Jake Cronenworth would remain as the regular shortstop and Adam Frazier would remain at second base, with Ha-Seong Kim as the backup infielder.

It wouldn’t be what the Padres anticipated as their regular lineup down the stretch, yet the new alignment might be necessary to keep Tatis healthy. It could also open up some interesting possibilities for the team heading into 2022, since Pham is a free agent this winter and San Diego could opt to just keep Tatis in the outfield if he takes to the new position as smoothly as Kirby imagines. Cronenworth could remain as the everyday shortstop in that scenario … or, since there are plenty of star shortstops available in this winter’s free-agent class, the Padres could explore another high-profile acquisition. The Padres could also have another lineup spot to work with if the National League adopts the designated hitter.