SAN DIEGO — In his first public comments since being suspended for 80 games on Aug. 12 for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs, the San Diego star Fernando Tatis Jr. sat in the Padres’ dugout with A.J. Preller, the team’s president of baseball operations, by his side Tuesday and spoke with contrition and emotion for 25 minutes.
The public appearance followed a players-only meeting inside the Padres’ clubhouse during which Tatis said he apologized to his teammates, listened to what they “put on the table” and had them share “some tough love.”
“I have let so many people down,” Tatis said during a roughly four-minute opening statement during which he spoke without notes, pausing several times to collect his thoughts as he talked. “I’ve lost so much love from people I have failed.”
Specifically, he mentioned the San Diego organization, Preller and the team owner Peter Seidler, before adding: “I have failed the city. I have failed my country. I have failed my family, my parents. I’m really sorry for my mistakes.
“I’ve seen how my dreams have turned into my worst nightmare.”
Tatis was suspended when Clostebol was discovered in his system during a test earlier this summer. Initially, he said in a statement that he took the substance to treat ringworm. In San Diego on Tuesday, he backed away from the ringworm explanation but remained vague.
“Let me clarify on ringworm story: I’ve been dealing with skin infections over the course of the years,” Tatis said, noting that he got “this medication” around the time that he was tested, which he said was in June. The medication, he said, was obtained while he was home in the Dominican Republic. He said he did not consult with the Padres’ medical staff.
“It was a stupid mistake,” he said. “It was me being reckless. It was me not going to the people that can help me. I’m regretting all of that. But at the end of the day there’s no excuses and nobody to blame but me.”
Tatis, 23, signed the longest contract in baseball history with the Padres in February 2021, a 14-year, $340-million deal that both the club and the player referred to as a “statue contract.” The term referred to many thinking that he is a “generational” player whose career production and long-term contract would combine to keep him in a place that eventually would build a statue in his honor.
He was the starting shortstop for the National League in that summer’s All-Star Game but hasn’t played this season because of a broken wrist suffered during an off-season motorcycle accident in the Dominican Republic. He was on an injury-rehabilitation assignment in the minor leagues and was expected to make his 2022 debut with the Padres within a matter of weeks when the club and the sport were stunned by the announcement of the suspension, which will carry over into the 2023 season.
“We’ve talked about relationships, any relationship worth having there’s going to be some great moments and there’s going to be some challenging moments,” Preller said. “I’ve talked to Fernando a lot about mistakes. We all make mistakes, I’ve made plenty of mistakes as the G.M. of this team.
“The key is how you learn from those mistakes, how you grow from those mistakes, what you do going forward.”
In the immediate future, Tatis suggested he was going to have surgery on his left shoulder to repair damage caused by chronic dislocation over the past few seasons. The shoulder dislocated four times last season. The Padres wanted him to have it surgically repaired last off-season but Tatis had declined.
But while on the injury-rehabilitation assignment for his wrist, he said, he felt the shoulder bothering him and admitted thinking about it in cases such as opting not to dive headfirst into a base.
“And I feel like when I come back and start everything all over, I need to be 100 percent so I know what I can do,” Tatis said.
Responding to a question in Spanish, Tatis, through a Padres translator, called this “the most terrible time of my life. I’ve had trouble sleeping.”
The Padres seemed glad to get the meeting over with and move on. Manager Bob Melvin said that he didn’t think the meeting “could have gone better” and that “in the baseball world you forgive, and as long as he’s honest like he was, at some point it’s time to move on.”
Though Manny Machado, Tatis’s All-Star teammate, declined to reveal details of the players-only meeting, he offered some empathy.
“Ultimately, at the end of the day, we’re all human and we all make mistakes,” Machado said. “It just sucks in our situation, and in his situation, that it’s all over the world.”
Tatis said he knows the road back will be a long one but said he is ready to start down that path.
“I think I can regain everybody’s trust and love down the road,” he said. “It’s not going to take a couple of days. It’s going to take a very long time. I’m looking forward to that challenge. At the end of the day, I’m still 23. That’s not an excuse. But I’m saying, I’ve got a long time in front of me.”