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Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr. likely out for season with stress reaction in back

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This is an unfortunate end to what has been a borderline Rookie of the Year-caliber season.

Tampa Bay Rays v San Diego Padres Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

Padres rookie shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. has been placed on the 10-day injured list and is expected to miss the remainder of the 2019 season after suffering a stress reaction in his lower back, an injury that caused him to exit Tuesday’s game against the Rays after the sixth inning. Manager Andy Green shared the news with reporters prior to Friday’s game:

While the Padres haven’t really been competitive this season, sitting eight games under .500 and 7.5 games back of the second NL Wild Card spot heading into Friday’s contest, this injury is still a brutal blow to the club. It’s arguable that the 20-year-old shortstop is the most exciting player the team has had since Tony Gwynn was in his prime, and along with free-agent addition Manny Machado, he’s been a much needed source of excitement and energy for the San Diego fan base this year.

Mets first baseman Pete Alonso was going to be pretty difficult to beat, but Tatis Jr. was building a legitimate case for the NL Rookie of the Year award, hitting .317/.379/.590 with 22 homers, 16 steals, and 53 RBI in 372 plate appearances. For what it’s worth, he does still have quite a bit of room to improve defensively, as he’s posted -2 defensive runs saved and a -8.2 UZR/150, but he’s got plenty of time to address those issues since he’s just beginning his third decade of life.

A left hamstring strain that caused him to miss the entire month of May and a week of June had already weakened his Rookie of the Year case, and this injury likely destroys it, though he’ll surely still get runner-up votes. The more important issue for the Padres right now is making sure that this injury isn’t something that’s going to plague Tatis Jr. in the future, as he’s the clear face of the team’s youth movement and is going to have to be healthy if they’re going to dethrone the Dodgers as NL West champions any time soon.

Deserved or not, this is the type of injury that could contribute to Tatis Jr. earning a reputation as “injury prone.” Along with the hamstring injury earlier this year, he suffered a thumb injury that required surgery and ended his minor-league season last July — that’s three injuries before his 21st birthday that gave caused him to miss extended time. He injured the thumb sliding into a base, so it was basically a freak occurrence and has nothing to do with his pain tolerance or physical makeup, but it was nevertheless another serious ailment on a list that continues to grow.

With Tatis out, Luis Urías figures to shift to shortstop for the rest of the season with Ty France (and possibly Ian Kinsler, if he returns from a herniated cervical disk) getting playing time at second base. Greg Garcia also remains an option to fill in at either middle infield position.