It's 24-hour Puig drama
August, 20, 2013
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com
MIAMI -- Maybe Don Mattingly inserted Yasiel Puig into the game in the sixth inning just to get him off the bench.
The most frenetic player in the major leagues had to be bouncing off the dugout walls after being left out of the starting lineup for one of the few times since he arrived in Los Angeles 2½ months ago. Not only was Puig not playing when the game started -- in Miami, where he has made his home since defecting from Cuba -- but he got a stern talking-to in Mattingly's office and received an undisclosed fine after showing up late.
When Mattingly finally called upon him, Puig, as usual, came charging hard and fast. He swung at the first pitch he saw, hammering it on a majestic arc off the top of the outfield wall for the decisive home run in the Los Angeles Dodgers' 6-4 win at Marlins Park.
AP Photo/Lynne SladkyYasiel Puig celebrates his eighth-inning home run Tuesday that helped give the Dodgers a narrow win over the Marlins.
"He's always antsy. He's always all over the place," Mattingly said. "Like I said, that motor doesn't ever turn off, I don't think, until he sleeps. If he sleeps."
It almost seemed foreshadowed by the swirl of activity around Puig before the game. The spotlight finds him whether he wants it to or not. He was able to make the storyline generally positive Tuesday. Puig has hit 12 home runs, and seven of them have come in the seventh inning or later.
The first 68 games of Puig's career have put him on a superstar trajectory. He's batting .352 with .567 slugging percentage. The Dodgers are certainly treating him like a superstar. Before anyone could ask him about the earlier events of Tuesday, Puig signaled to a Dodgers spokesman who, with the help of Puig's interpreter, cut short his postgame interview after one final question.
Before that swing, the Cuban-born Puig was 3-for-23 over the previous five games and he had gone 0-for-5 while showcased against the other great young Cuban player in the National League, Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez the night before.
It's impossible to predict where Puig is headed -- on the bases, in his career, even when he leaves the field. His talent, charisma and volatility are so profound.
"He's not really a problem, just a lot of stuff happens," Mattingly said. "He really isn't."
When the Puig sprinted out to right field as part of a double switch in the sixth, the crowd -- more than 25,000 people were in attendance -- cheered wildly. Not that he felt any more jittery, or more energetic, playing in a city with the largest concentration of Cubans north of Havana.
"I don't really feel pressure. If I don't feel it in Los Angeles, I'm not going to feel it here," Puig said.