EL PASO — Chihuahuas broadcaster Tim Hagerty summed up the evening best on-air: “On a night many years from now, tens of thousands of El Pasoans will recall watching Fernando Tatis, Jr. at Southwest University Park blast three home runs deep into the night.”
What Tatis did in El Paso’s 19-6 victory over the Albuquerque Isotopes is just one of the many remarkable feats those of us actually here will tell people about his career.
“I told one of our guys after the game that I had him when he was 19 in [Double-A] San Antonio, and the same things were going on then,” said Chihuahua’s manager Phillip Wellman has been in the Padres’ organization since 2016.
“Many are picked, but few are chosen. He just had it written all over him then, and he still does.”
Tatis, who will be eligible to return to the big league club on April 20, also had a double and a single in addition to his three home runs to end the night with eight RBI, which tied the El Paso Chihuahuas single-game record with former Padres catcher Austin Hedges.
In 29 plate appearances, while he bides his time waiting out the end of his suspension carried over from last year, Tatis has a slash line of .478/.586/1.087 with six extra-base hits, including four home runs and 11 RBI in six games. Despite his status as a big league superstar, at 24, he is still younger than everyone on the team except for Moises Lugo.
As great as Tatis’s night was, it was also fantastic for the team. Tim Lopes, Brett Sullivan, Alfonso Rivas, and Yorman Rodriguez all had multiple hits, with Rodriguez blasting a pair of home runs and a double of his own.
“Yorman can flat-out hit. He’s a catcher by trade, but we can also play him at third and first,” said Wellman.
“But wherever I play him, he’s going to hit. He hit Triple-A two years ago, in Double-A last year, and will hit again this year.
With all the support, lefty Jay Groome had the best of his three outings on the mound this year, allowing just two earned runs over six innings on 79 pitches.
“There were many positive things with Jay tonight,” said Wellman. “He commanded his pitches better than he had in his two previous outings – he threw inside a little more, which opened up the outer part of the plate for him, which he wanted to do.
“But I liked his demeanor the most. A few things could have got out of hand, and Jay found a way not to let one or two bad pitches turn into a big inning.”
Michel Baez, Tom Cosgrove, and Lugo closed out the game, with the lefty Cosgrove being particularly impressive, needing 10 pitches to get three outs.
Notes: Lefthander Drew Pomeranz was removed from his scheduled appearance and left El Paso before the game. It was later reported that Pomeranz suffered a neck strain. … Tonight was Baez’s season debut after he went unclaimed when the Padres designated him for assignment. After 10 days on the Development List, he showed some rust giving up several hard-hit balls, including a solo home run. … Also making a season debut tonight were the new alternative uniforms of the El Paso Strawberry Margaritas, a welcome change from the lime green ones of last season. The secondary identity is part of El Paso’s participation in MILB’s Copa de la Diversión.