KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Bad news for Fernando Tatis Jr., the Padres and baseball had a tangential effect on Pete Alonso, too.
Tatis’ rookie season is “most likely done” because of a stress reaction in his back, San Diego manager Andy Green announced Friday. That effectively ends Tatis’ chances of winning National League Rookie of the Year, making the Mets’ first-year first baseman the obvious choice with about a quarter-season to go.
“I don’t want anyone to get hurt. That’s really unfortunate, especially the back,” Alonso said Saturday. “Any athlete, but baseball especially, there’s a lot of strain on the core and the back, so that’s tough. He’s a really awesome player, and that’s really tough to see.”
Tatis, 20 years old and widely regarded as one of the most exciting and talented young players in the game, hit .317 with a .379 on-base percentage and .590 slugging percentage, plus 22 homers and 53 RBIs — not to mention solid defense at shortstop.
But because of the back issue and an early-season hamstring strain — which caused him to miss the Mets’ series in San Diego in May — Tatis played in only 84 games, a tick more than half the season.
“I hope he can come back [this year]. I’ve been hurt before in my career and it sucks not being able to play,” said Alonso, a veteran of several broken hands. “He’s a fun and exciting player to watch, simple as that. He’s had a hell of a season when he’s healthy, so I wish him the best. I wish him a speedy recovery.”
Alonso, 24, has a .266/.370/.594 slash line, 39 homers and 93 RBIs after going 3-for-5 with a two-run single in the Mets’ 4-1 victory over the Royals on Saturday night. That is tied for the most homers by a rookie in National League history and two shy of the franchise single-season record.
Alonso established himself as the favorite for Rookie of the Year early — he hit nine homers in April and 10 in May — and was named NL rookie of the month in April and June. (The Braves’ Austin Riley won in May, the Brewers’ Keston Hiura in July.) Tatis was coming on strong in the second half, and a healthy and productive final stretch probably would have made it close.
When the Padres visited Citi Field last month, Tatis acknowledged that Alonso was the favorite.
“He already deserves it, but the season’s not over,” Tatis said. “So I’ll keep pushing, and whoever is best is going to win.”
Also worth noting in the Rookie of the Year race is Braves righthander Mike Soroka, 22, who is 10-2 with a 2.41 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 22 starts. He has emerged as the ace for the team with the second-best record in the league.
Asked what winning Rookie of the Year would mean to him, Alonso shrugged. The Mets are in the middle of a wild-card chase, don’t forget.
“That’d be awesome, but it’s all about the New York Mets,” he said. “I just want to help this team. That’s it.”