It took six minutes and a dozen questions before his name came up in Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly’s pregame interview Friday. That may have been a record.
“So how do you communicate with Puig?” one reporter asked.
The Dodgers rookie right fielder has taken the clubhouse by storm. In only four games he’s tallied three home runs and nine RBIs, most recently crushing a one-out, bases-loaded fastball into the right-field stands during the eighth inning of the team’s 5-0 win against the Braves Thursday night.
In the second game of a four-game series with Atlanta on Friday, the buzz surrounding the Dodgers team is about what he will do next.
“It just reminds you of when you first started playing,” Mattingly said. “I think that’s a good energy for us. I just think Yasiel plays with, I said it last night, a lot of joy. There’s a freedom in his game. It’s fast, it’s hard and it’s pure. He’s fun to watch and it’s hard not to like that.”
Puig has already drawn comparisons to Manny Ramirez, who injected offensive life into the Dodgers lineup in 2008, and arguably stronger ones to the Angels' Mike Trout, last year’s rookie of the year and MVP runner-up.
Mattingly said Puig is in the same class as Trout, as well as injured outfielder Carl Crawford, and he’s already proved that he has the skill set to hit for both power and average.
“Who needs Mannywood, we’ve got the Puigpen,” quipped one fan on her way up the elevator.
The next step for Puig will come as pitchers begin to adjust their approaches, Mattingly said. He struggled against craftier starters Jason Marquis and Tim Hudson in the last two games, going a combined 1-for-7 against the veteran starters.
But it will take time, and outs, for pitchers to learn how to deal with Puig.
“They may have to go to a certain area to get him out and probably most guys can’t get the ball there anyway,” Mattingly said. “That’s the thing. You can’t say, well, you can go here to get him out because then you’ve got to get it there.
“… and if you don’t get the ball to the right spot, a 2- or 3-inch difference, throwing the ball here or here is a big difference.”
Puig has already proved he can take advantage of mistakes. The 81-mph Cory Gearrin slider he walloped Thursday night caught plenty of plate.
As he rounded the bases following the monstrous swat, Mattingly stood and clapped.
And when the reporter asked him how he communicates with his rising star, Mattingly did the same.
“I kind of go [clap, clap, clap].”
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