LOS ANGELES—Los Angeles Dodgers first-base coach Davey Lopes was taking part in a word association game with a film crew prior to Saturday’s game against the visiting Colorado Rockies when Yasiel Puig’s name came up.
Without hesitation, Lopes answered, “Unpredictable.”
Puig has been with the Dodgers for nearly four months. In that time, they’ve climbed from as far back as 9 ½ games in the NL West standings to division champions. They won 53 of 66 games during their summer surge, including a franchise-record 15 consecutive road games.
Puig has his fingerprints all over one of the great turnarounds in franchise history, hitting .322 since his arrival with 19 home runs among his 42 extra-base hits.
Still, from listening to Dodgers manager Don Mattingly and his coaching staff, it's clear Puig still has a lot to learn.
“We see a guy with just a load of talent, but also you see the young player in him at times,” Mattingly said.
During the Dodgers’ previous homestand, Mattingly spoke of Puig’s lack of control in the outfield. His tendency to overthrow the cutoff man has been well documented, but on this night Mattingly was discussing Puig’s unbridled aggression when chasing down fly balls, saying his teammates don’t trust that he won’t run them over in pursuit.
His baserunning has been just as just as erratic. He’s stolen 11 bases but has been caught eight times. Even more disturbing, he has been picked off, doubled up and run through stop signs to record a number of other outs on the basepaths.
Puig also seems reluctant to take the advice of others. Against the Rockies on Friday night, he fouled a ball of his lower left leg in his first at-bat and hobbled around before eventually grounding out. Mattingly said he brushed off a recommendation to wear a shin guard and later fouled another pitch off the same area in the fifth inning, ultimately causing him to leave the game.
"I would think he would want to wear one, but ...," Mattingly said before just shrugging his shoulders.
Puig took batting practice Saturday and Mattingly said he would be available to play if needed, but is holding him out for precautionary reasons.
A more difficult decision looms Thursday. Who will be the starting outfielders when the Dodgers open the NL Division Series, either at the St. Louis Cardinals or Atlanta Braves? Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford appear healthy and ready, and another veteran outfielder, Andre Ethier, is wrapping up his rehab from an injured lower left leg at the team’s spring training complex in Glendale, Ariz.
With the Dodgers' playoff positioning set, Mattingly was asked if he planned to let the players manage the team in the final two games. Mattingly said he hadn’t thought about that possibility, but then asked reporters who they considered good candidates.
When it was suggested Puig could coach third base, Mattingly answered, “It would probably do him some good.”
1. Charlie Blackmon RF
2. Charlie Culberson LF
3. Corey Dickerson CF
4. Troy Tulowitzki SS
5. Todd Helton 1B
6. Nolan Arenado 3B
7. Jordan Pacheco C
8. Jonathan Herrera 2B
9. Juan Nicasio P
1. Skip Schumaker RF
2. A.J. Ellis C
3. Hanley Ramirez SS
4. Adrian Gonzalez 1B
5. Matt Kemp CF
6. Juan Uribe 3B
7. Michael Young 2B
8. Scott Van Slyke LF
9. Zack Greinke P