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Padres star Fernando Tatis Jr. suspended 80 games for violating MLB’s PED policy

Fernando Tatis Jr. was suspended on Friday, when the Padres were in Washington to play the Nationals. (Ashley Landis/AP Photo)

San Diego Padres star Fernando Tatis Jr. tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug and was suspended 80 games, a punishment that ends his 2022 season, Major League Baseball announced Friday.

In a statement, the 23-year-old shortstop said that he inadvertently treated ringworm with a medication that contained the banned substance Clostebol and that, after initially appealing the ruling, he decided to drop the appeal.

“I should have used the resources available to me to ensure that no banned substances were in what I took. I failed to do so,” Tatis said in his statement. “I have no excuse for my error, and I would never do anything to cheat or disrespect this game I love.”

Padres General Manager A.J. Preller said he told Manager Bob Melvin the news after batting practice before Friday’s game. The two then delivered the news to the team. Melvin said the news was met with shock.

“We were hoping that from the offseason to now that there would be some maturity, and obviously with the news today, it’s more of a pattern and it’s something that we’ve got to dig a bit more into,” Preller said. “I’m sure he’s very disappointed. But at the end of the day, it’s one thing to say it. You’ve got to start showing by your actions.”

Tatis had yet to appear in a game this season because of a wrist injury he suffered in an offseason motorcycle accident. He will be ineligible to play for the Padres should they make the postseason. San Diego is 16 games back of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West but would own the newly created third NL wild-card spot if the season ended Friday.

“We were surprised and extremely disappointed to learn today that Fernando Tatis Jr. tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance in violation of Major League Baseball’s Joint Prevention and Treatment Program and subsequently received an 80-game suspension without pay,” the Padres said in a statement. “We fully support the Program and are hopeful that Fernando will learn from this experience.”

Melvin said he planned to speak with Tatis on Saturday and, after reading his statement, wanted his side of the story.

The league’s policy dictates that clubs are not notified of a player’s positive test until the day that player is set to be added to the restricted list, so the Padres did not know Tatis had tested positive when they engineered a franchise-altering deal to acquire Juan Soto from the Washington Nationals at the trade deadline.

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At the time, that deal looked like a splurge for a team soundly in contention with its young superstar, Tatis, preparing to return from injury for the stretch run. In hindsight, Soto and Josh Bell will replace much-needed production as the Padres try to make the long October run they and Preller have sought for most of the past decade.

“This is a blow for us, and we’ll have to move on,” Melvin said. “I’m glad we made the moves we did over the deadline. We feel like we have a really good team still, and sometimes you have to deal with some adversity.”

Now Soto and Bell will anchor a Padres lineup that still contains Manny Machado, a formidable heart of the order that appeared poised to be dominant down the stretch but had not been yet: San Diego is 3-5 since trading for Soto, including a sweep at the hands of the Dodgers last week.

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When Tatis has been healthy in the big leagues, he has been explosive. Last season, despite battling a shoulder injury down the stretch, he led the league with 42 homers at age 22. He was an MVP candidate in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

But after battling the shoulder problem late in 2021, Tatis returned from the lockout with a new problem, one his team had not been able to address while the players negotiated a new collective bargaining agreement: He had broken his wrist in a motorcycle accident. His return had been slower in coming than some hoped, but it seemed probable to arrive soon. He will not return until 2023.

“We have the guys in here to get to where we want to be,” Machado said. “We’re just going to keep continuing to play like a team. We still have the same goal, which is to make a World Series and bring a championship to San Diego, and that’s what we’re intending to do.”