FORT WAYNE – Donavan Tate had six hits in his first 19 at-bats as a TinCap in 2011. He had two doubles and two stolen bases in the first six games.
It was the start many expected from Tate, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2009 draft.
But that sixth game would be his last of the season with Fort Wayne. Tate collided with fellow outfielder Everett Williams while tracking a fly ball in the fourth inning of a game at Bowling Green. Tate suffered a deep bone bruise in his left knee and was sidelined for more than two months.
In late June, while with San Diegos short-season A team in Eugene, Ore., he was suspended 50 games for violating Major League Baseballs drug prevention and treatment program. Tate finished the year in Eugene. And now hes back with the TinCaps.
Im glad they have the testing program in place that it is, Tate said Monday. Its something that needs to be addressed, and it helped me get my mind back where I needed it to be. It was a good learning experience. Im glad it happened in the past, and Im looking forward to a great season this year.
TinCaps manager Jose Valentin anticipates a bounce-back year.
He went through hard times last season, Valentin said. The injuries. Hes one of those guys that has to prove hes the player that people think he is. He has some tools. Hes a great player, a great kid. In spring training, he was one of those guys going in early and one of the last guys to leave the stadium.
Hes happy to be back here, and Im happy to have him on my team.
Tate is listed as the No. 22 prospect in San Diegos organization, according to Baseball America. Injuries have been an issue for the 21-year-old outfielder.
Since 2009, the setbacks have included a sports hernia, a broken jaw, a sprained left shoulder and a concussion. He arrived in Fort Wayne healthy last season, only to have the collision wipe out the strong start. He had a .316 batting average at the time of the injury.
Its definitely disappointing because of the season I wanted to have last year, Tate said. But I was able to learn a lot from that. Away from the field, where I needed to be and what I needed to do to stay on the field. It wasnt what I expected or wanted to happen, but it helped me with other aspects of my game.
I tried to stay in shape, do as much working out as I could to stay in shape, do as much as my knee allowed me to do. I tried to think about the game, think about the game in different situations, different counts, different approaches. It was a huge advantage. Nobody wants to be hurt, but when you are you take advantage of it however you can, do what you can to stay healthy the next time around.
The suspension came after testing positive a second time for a drug of abuse. Drugs of abuse are defined as recreational and not performance-enhancing.
Tate hit .283 with eight doubles, four triples and 20 RBI for Eugene. But he missed the end of the season with a wrist injury.
Hes healthy again. And he has something to prove.
I give a lot of credit to the team, to the Padres for allowing me to have this opportunity again, Tate said. I have to take advantage of it and do whatever I can to stay healthy, play on the field and play to the best of my ability.