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Fernando Tatis Jr. set to return to MLB: A look back at the past 2 years for the Padres star

Fernando Tatis Jr. hasn't played an MLB game in 18 months, but that is slated to change Thursday when the All-Star shortstop/outfielder makes his 2023 debut with the San Diego Padres.

It has been a long time since we've seen Tatis, still just 24, on the field. A motorcycle accident and a positive PED test cost him the entire 2022 season (and the first 20 games of the 2023 season), but now that he's back, he's ready to prove he's still one of the best players in the game.

With Tatis making his long-awaited debut, let's take a look back at his roller-coaster journey from signing a massive contract extension in February 2021 to returning from a PED suspension in April 2023.

Feb. 17, 2021

The Padres sign Tatis to a 14-year, $340 million contract extension, which at the time was the third-richest in MLB history.

Oct. 3, 2021

Tatis goes 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in the Padres' final game of the 2021 season and finishes with a .282/.364/.611 batting line and 42 home runs. He then won a Silver Slugger Award and finished third in National League MVP voting. After the Padres missed the playoffs, Tatis went home to the Dominican Republic for the winter.

December 2021

While at home, Tatis is involved in what was called a "slight motorcycle accident" in the city of Higuey. Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that Tatis sustained "minor scrapes," but it's later revealed that he didn't receive any treatment. The Padres were not allowed to announce or comment on the news due to the ongoing MLB lockout.

March 14, 2022

General manager AJ Preller announces that Tatis has a fractured left wrist from the motorcycle accident in December. When members of the media ask Tatis about the motorcycle accident, he replies, "Which one?"

March 16, 2022

Tatis, who had been on the fence about going under the knife, has surgery on his injured wrist. It's estimated that he'll be back sometime in June, likely before the All-Star break. Fans — not to mention the Padres — hope the drama is behind them so Tatis can rehab and return to help the team capture the NL West.

April 2022

Tatis begins "light baseball activities," moving one step closer to playing in 2022. He says April 11 that he expects to start swinging a bat in three weeks, and a week later, he says he feels like he's ahead of schedule with his wrist rehab.

May 6, 2022

Tatis tells the media that he doesn't know when he'll be cleared to start swinging a bat again. He has been playing catch, though as a righty, he only throws, and someone else catches the ball so that he doesn't risk re-injuring his left wrist.

May 24, 2022

A bone scan on Tatis' left wrist shows that it hasn't healed as much as the Padres had hoped. He's still not cleared to swing a bat, though the Padres say they don't consider this a setback and still expect Tatis to return sometime in June.

June 14, 2022

Tatis, who has had multiple positive wrist scans in recent weeks, finally has the scan that could allow him to resume swinging a bat and other baseball activities, paving the way for his return by the end of the month. Except that his wrist fracture has not healed enough. The Padres announce that Tatis' wrist hasn't healed as much as they'd like, so his return date is pushed back. He's still not allowed to swing a bat.

June 28, 2022

Tatis has another scan on his wrist, and this time, the fracture has healed quite a bit. Tatis can resume some baseball activities, but which ones aren't revealed. He's still not cleared to swing a bat. The Padres continue to be extremely cautious about getting Tatis back into the lineup.

July 14-15, 2022

Tatis has another scan of his wrist, this time with mixed results. According to Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune, doctors consulted by the Padres disagree on what steps Tatis should take next. Despite that, Preller announces the following day that Tatis will begin a hitting progression in the coming days, putting him on track for an August return.

Aug. 6, 2022

After several weeks of taking live batting practice, it's finally time for Tatis to begin a minor-league rehab assignment. He starts as the designated hitter for the Double-A San Diego Missions, and after two hitless games, he goes 2-for-2 with two walks on Aug. 9. He's on track for a mid-August return to MLB.

Aug. 12, 2022

MLB suspends Tatis for 80 games after he tests positive for Clostebol, a banned substance. Fans, players and media are shocked. Tatis, who initially decided to appeal the decision, drops his appeal and begins serving his suspension immediately.

As for how a banned substance ended up in his body, Tatis says it was in a medication he took to treat ringworm, which his father backs up. No one is quite sure what to make of this explanation. Regardless, the situation boils down one thing: Tatis was careless, and now he's paying the price. His suspension will keep him off the field for the remainder of the 2022 season and the start of 2023.

Aug. 19, 2022

Tatis reportedly speaks to his teammates as a group for the first time since his suspension, one day after reportedly meeting with Preller. Jurickson Profar tells ESPN that Tatis is "devastated" and "feels really bad" about hurting the team with his suspension. Joe Musgrove says there was some "tough love" in the room during the meeting, but the group accepted Tatis' apology.

Aug. 23, 2022

Tatis publicly apologizes for his positive PED test, expressing remorse for letting "so many people down." He explains that he started using medication to treat a skin infection in June, without checking with team doctors, and continued taking it until he tested positive in July. Tatis also announces that he'll have left shoulder surgery in the coming weeks, fixing the labrum issue that has plagued him since his minor-league days (and caused his shoulder to pop out of place five times in the span of six weeks in 2021).

Sept. 6, 2022

After a delay due to a non-COVID illness, Tatis has surgery to repair the labrum in his left shoulder. For the first time in years, expectations are that he'll be 100 percent healthy when he starts the following season.

Oct. 17, 2022

Tatis has a small follow-up procedure on his wrist. Preller tells the media that Tatis should be fully healed by the time he's allowed to start the 2023 season.

Oct. 23, 2022

The Padres are eliminated in the NLCS, denied a chance to vie for the World Series trophy by the Philadelphia Phillies. In total, the Padres played 12 playoff games, which count toward the 80 games Tatis must serve, so he'll be able to return April 20, 2023. The day after the Padres' final game of 2022, Preller says Tatis should be fully healthy at the start of spring training.

Jan. 6, 2023

Tatis is reportedly cleared to resume baseball activities, which he hasn't done in nearly six months.

Feb. 4, 2023

Tatis tells the media that he's open to playing any position in the upcoming season. He's a natural shortstop, the primary position he played with the Padres in 2021, but things have changed since then. The Padres signed free-agent shortstop Xander Bogaerts in the 2022 offseason and decided to move shortstop Ha-Seong Kim to second base for 2023. Ten days later, manager Bob Melvin says Juan Soto will play left field in 2023, which leaves right field for Tatis. He played 20 games there in 2021.

Feb. 28, 2023

Tatis makes his Cactus League debut, going 0-for-2 with a walk and a stolen base. He participates in spring training with the Padres but looks rusty and doesn't get his first hit until March 11.

April 3, 2023

When the Padres leave their spring training facility to start the regular season, Tatis heads to Triple-A to serve the final games of his suspension with the El Paso Chihuahuas. He began spring training 0-for-16 but ended up hitting .459 overall.

April 5, 2023

Tatis hits the first home run of his rehab assignment, an absolute rocket off minor-league pitcher Kade McClure, who isn't all that happy about it. McClure quote tweets a video of the home run with the comment: "cheater hits a home run on a rehab assignment during a steroid suspension."

April 16, 2023

Tatis wraps up his rehab assignment. In eight games, he hit .515/.590/1.212 with two doubles and seven home runs. Given the way he's clobbering Triple-A pitching, it seems he is more than ready to return to the majors.

April 20, 2023

Eighteen long months after his last MLB game, Tatis is reinstated from suspension and returns to the Padres as the team's starting right fielder.

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