Koufax: Puig needs to hit cutoff man
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Legendary pitcher Sandy Koufax, making his first appearance of the spring at the Los Angeles Dodgers' training facility, said he enjoyed watching Yasiel Puig energize the team last summer but would like to see the talented outfielder improve his fundamentals.
"If the showmanship doesn't involve bad decisions, it's fine," Koufax said. "I think people love it. You've got a great arm, you want to show it off, but you'd like to see it go to the right place all the time.
"He's young. He hasn't played [much]. I think the biggest thing is he hasn't played against competition as good as he is, so you're always able to have your physical ability make up for whatever else you did. He's learning. I'm sure it's going to happen. There's too much talent not to."
In discussing Puig's powerful arm, some people have compared him to Hall of Fame outfielder Roberto Clemente, among others. But Koufax said he is not willing to go there. Not yet anyway.
"Clemente had a great arm. [Willie] Mays had a good arm, but Mays never missed the cutoff man, never threw to the wrong base," Koufax said. "I'm not sure Roberto did either, but there have been a lot of good arms in baseball. I'm not comparing [Puig] to Clemente after two or three months in the big leagues."
Koufax, a three-time Cy Young Award winner, joined the Dodgers as a special assistant to owner Mark Walter last spring. He rarely makes public appearances, but Koufax volunteered to fly to New York for the Baseball Writers' Association of America's awards banquet in January because he wanted to present Clayton Kershaw with his second Cy Young.
Because Kershaw pitches for Los Angeles and is left-handed, he has been compared to Koufax since his major league debut in 2008.
"He was introduced as my protégé. I wanted to start right off saying, 'He's not my protégé. He's his own man, his own person,'" Koufax said.
Kershaw, 25, has led the major leagues in ERA each of the past three seasons and signed a record-breaking $215 million, seven-year contract extension last month. Koufax, 78, didn't win his first Cy Young until he was 27 but was the most dominant pitcher in baseball from 1962 to 1966, retiring at age 31 because of an elbow injury.
Koufax said Kershaw will have to make adjustments as he ages.
"At 25, you don't have to adjust. Talk to me when he's 35," Koufax said.
He said he does not mind the comparisons with Kershaw.
"I hope by the time it's over it will be a big honor," Koufax said.