SAN DIEGO (AP) — Fernando Tatis got the call he knew he’d be receiving sooner or later from his son, top shortstop prospect Fernando Tatis Jr.
And just like that, opening day for the San Diego Padres will be that much more exciting, when long-suffering fans will get to watch the younger Tatis playing next to All-Star slugger Manny Machado at third base.
Tatis said his son, the No. 2 prospect overall in baseball, called him Tuesday to tell him he has made the Padres’ opening day roster.
“He’s very happy about it,” Tatis told The Associated Press from his home in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic. “He was very excited. I’m very happy.”
The senior Tatis said his son called after the Padres’ exhibition game in Seattle. While the Padres were flying back to San Diego, the senior Tatis was making arrangements for him and the rest of his family to travel to San Diego for opening day Thursday against the San Francisco Giants.
“We’ve got to be there for his first game,” he said.
The Athletic first reported that Tatis had made the opening day roster. Team officials didn’t respond to requests for comment.
There was a belief that Tatis, 20, would start the season in Triple-A in order to delay his potential free agency and because he’s never played above Double-A. Delaying a player’s service time with a few weeks in the minors has become a regular practice across the majors, but the Padres have said that prospects will make their big league debuts on merit alone, and Tatis showed his remarkable skills during spring training. He also played well during winter ball after missing the second half of last season after breaking his left thumb while sliding headfirst.
The senior Tatis said he wasn’t sure if his son would make the opening day roster, “but I’ve got my feeling that he deserve to make the team and he’s ready to go forward.”
Padres fans have already been buoyed by the signing of Machado to a $300 million, 10-year contract, and now the younger Tatis will be playing next to him.
“It’s awesome for him,” the senior Tatis said. “It’s going to be great because playing right next to Manny is going to be a big help for him. I believe it’s going to be a great combination, third and short. I don’t think many balls are going to go through third base and shortstop because of their range. The left side of the infield is going to be amazing.”
Tatis was obtained from the Chicago White Sox for right-hander James Shields on June 4, 2016, as part of general manager A.J. Preller’s rebuild after a win-now attempt with high-priced veterans in 2015 failed.
Tatis will be 20 years and 85 days old on Thursday, making him the youngest player to start on opening day since 19-year-old Adrian Beltre with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1999.
Word of Tatis making the squad came less than 24 hours after right-hander Chris Paddack, 23, learned on the mound in Seattle on Monday night that he’d made the opening day roster after having a brilliant spring. When manager Andy Green came out to pull Paddack, he turned to Eric Hosmer, Ian Kinsler and Machado as they surrounded the young pitcher and posed a question to the veteran infielders.
“He asked us what we were all doing Sunday and we said we would be right behind this guy playing,” Hosmer said. “I think he got the message.”
Paddack, who missed all of 2017 after having Tommy John surgery, is scheduled to make his big league debut on Sunday.
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