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Sunday, March 3, 2013
Yasiel Puig continues to impress

By Mark Saxon

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Yasiel Puig was seven years old in the summer of 1998 and was largely insulated from American baseball news in Cuba, but word got back to him about Mark McGwire.

"Great power hitter," Puig said.

Now, Puig is working closely with McGwire, the Dodgers' hitting coach, in the batting cages at Camelback Ranch, trying to refine a powerful but raw swing into something that can withstand the rigors of major-league pitching. The Dodgers don't expect him to have to test that swing on Opening Day -- he could spend all of 2013 in the minors -- but they're seeing the potential early.

Puig has been doing as much damage as any Dodger hitter this spring. He lined a three-run home run to left field off Cleveland Indians pitcher Fernando Nieve in the Dodgers' 5-1 win Sunday. Puig is batting .421 with four extra-base hits, more than any Dodger hitter other than Luis Cruz.

Puig has the build of an NFL linebacker. He is 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds, with massive arms and an athletic gait. He also recognizes this will get tougher as pitchers begin to bring in more of their off-speed stuff and to game plan for attacking hitters.

He's proving he's not intimidated, though, and that's a good start.

"I'm going to be ready for any pitch," Puig said.