Fernando Tatis Jr. is serving an 80-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s banned substance policy, the league announced early in the evening on Aug. 12. The superstar shortstop, who was signed to a long-term contract by the San Diego Padres that will last most, if not his whole career, was anticipating a return to the lineup for the first time this season. He began the season on the IL after suffering a wrist injury that resulted from a motorcycle accident. Tatis and the Padres were anticipating his return to happen quickly. He had already begun a rehab assignment when the suspension was handed down. The suspension began immediately. Tatis will not see a major league field again until 2023.
The Culprit is Clostebol
In a statement he released after the suspension news broke, Tatis said he used an ointment to treat ringworm, a fungal skin infection. In the statement, Tatis said the ointment contained Clostebol. It is classified as a synthetic anabolic-androgenic steroid derived from testosterone. “I should have used the resources available to me in order to ensure that no banned substances were in what I took,” one part of Tatis’s statement read.
Tatis is not the first athlete to allegedly fail a drug test for performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) without injecting anything. Dee Gordon, who was released by the Washington Nationals earlier this season, dealt with a similar experience during his career. Gordon tested positive for Clostebol and testosterone in 2016. It was the year the Miami Marlins signed him to a five-year, $50 million contract. It was also one year after he won the National League batting title. Gordon hit .333/.359/.418/.777 in 2015, earning an All-Star selection, and winning the Silver Slugger award.
When MLB announced Gordon’s suspension, it said “exogenous” amounts of Clostebol and testosterone were found. In other words, the origin of the substances was external. Gordon accepted responsibility, but did not say how he ingested the substances, according to his statement.
The Padres Respond
When Padres general manager A.J. Preller spoke with media at Nationals Park that same day, Tatis was the focus. Preller told reporters he hadn’t yet spoken with Tatis about the suspension. MLB has a drug policy, and it’s the player’s responsibility to stay in compliance, he added.
Preller also voiced his frustration, telling reporters the franchise has invested time and money in Tatis. His contract has a clause that says the Padres would not recoup money for his time on the IL. This was done to maintain a good relationship between team and player. The front office may revisit some of those details, Preller said.
“From our standpoint, obviously he’s a great talent, he’s a guy we have a lot of history with and do believe in,” Preller told reporters. “But these things only work when there’s trust both ways. I think that’s going to be something that we’re going to have plenty of conversation and time to talk to Fernando about. That’s something that clearly if we’re going to have a partnership and a real relationship, we’re going to have to make sure that that’s strong.”
What’s Next for the Padres and Tatis
Tatis will not be eligible to play again until the 2023 regular season begins. This means he also can’t play for the Dominican Republic in the 2023 World Baseball Classic, March 8-21. Tatis became the youngest player to hit 50 home runs and steal 50 bases in a career in 2021. He is one of the game’s most exciting superstars, known for rocking big chains and bat flips on a near-daily basis. At the same time, he has played in only 273 of the 498 games the Padres have played since he debuted in 2019. He has yet to stay healthy for a full season in the bigs.
As for the Padres, they remain in the NL Wild Card race. They currently hold a one-game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers for the No. 6 seed, thanks to an expanded playoff format. They trail the Philadelphia Phillies by only a half-game for the No. 5 seed, and the Atlanta Braves by four games for the top Wild Card spot. The Padres acquired Juan Soto and Josh Bell in a blockbuster trade with the Washington Nationals. It was once thought that Soto would compliment Tatis when he returned to the lineup. It now appears that Soto’s production will altogether replace Tatis for the rest of this season. What happens in future seasons is entirely up to Tatis.
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