EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – It’s hard to believe, but the 2023 campaign will be the El Paso Chihuahuas’ landmark 10th season as the Triple-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres.

The Chihuahuas plan on celebrating the occasion in style this season and it starts with Opening Day on Friday at Southwest University Park vs. the Sugar Land Space Cowboys. First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m.

“The traditions that they’ve already built in these 10 years is really cool. We’ve got some cool new uniforms and it’s a cool occasion and they’ve got some new banners and stuff like that,” said Chihuahuas catcher Michael Cantu, who is spending his fourth season with the Chihuahuas in 2023.

The 2022 edition of the Chihuahuas won the Pacific Coast League East Division championship, the club’s fifth division title since they became a franchise in 2014. They’re hopoing to build off of that this season.

There’s plenty of new faces in 2023, including a new manager in Phillip Wellman, who will be managing at a level higher than Double-A for the first time in his long career in professional baseball.

It’s a big moment for Wellman, who has coached plenty of the players who will be on El Paso’s Opening Day roster. Wellman was with the San Antonio Missions, the Padres’ Double-A affiliate the last few seasons.

“If I don’t get excited and anxious and nervous for Opening Day and I don’t get chills during the national anthem, it’s time for me to go home,” Wellman said. “I still feel the same. Once we get on the field, it’ll feel good. If we can get into a routine the next few days, it’ll feel good.”

Wellman said about 90% of the Chihuahuas’ Opening Day roster is already in El Paso, but the club is waiting on the roster to be finalized on Thursday when the San Diego Padres announce their roster for the 2023 MLB Opening Day. A few more players are expected to come to El Paso in time for Friday.

A hot topic of conversation on Wednesday was the status of Padres superstar Fernando Tatis Jr., who is still serving an 80-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs dating back to last season.

Tatis is eligible to return to the Padres on April 20; the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that Tatis would start a 15-day rehab assignment with the Chihuahuas on April 4 while the team is in Sacramento for a -game series.

El Paso will return home to host Albuquerque for a six-game series April 11-16, so it’s possible that Tatis Jr. could play games in the Sun City as well. However, Wellman said that as of now, he hadn’t been told the plan for Tatis Jr., who is still at the club’s spring training facility in Arizona.

“I haven’t gotten any official word on that, but I think there’s a pretty good chance at some point in time we’ll see Tatis Jr. here getting ready before he returns to the Big Leagues,” Wellman said. “He told me the tentative plan was to meet us (the Chihuahuas) in Sacramento, so he wouldn’t be here the first three at home. He’s still doing his stuff in Arizona. All I know is what Tatis Jr. has told me.”

Tatis Jr. is reportedly very close with Wellman, as well as El Paso’s hitting coach, Raul Padron. Time will tell what Tatis Jr. ends up doing, but this is without question the closest he’s come to playing in El Paso during his career. He skipped Triple-A entirely on his way to the Big Leagues and has never done a rehab assignment of any kind with the club.