PHOENIX — Look at that picture. That's a home-run follow-through. One to marvel at.
A split-second earlier, Yasiel Puig pulverized a pitch — hitting a line drive homer to right-center field that even Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was amazed at.
"Pretty legit," he called it.
Puig — the Cuban defector, who signed a seven-year, $42 million deal with the Dodgers last July — was 3-for-3 on Friday night, the home run included. All of 'em were bullets, Mattingly said. It further added to a spring in which Puig has punished opposing pitchers. He's now hitting .459.
"I don't think I've seen anybody do something like this. I've seen guys have good springs, but not with that kind of energy," Mattingly said. "This is a Bo Jackson-type package that you just don't see."
Bo Jackson, huh? A ballplayer could hear far worse comparisons than one of most-celebrated athletic talents ever. Dodgers star Matt Kemp made the same comparison once already.
Puig, 22, is a beast. He's 6-foot-3, 215 pounds with bulging biceps. He's the younger, bigger version of Yoenis Cespedes, the Cuban outfielder signed by the Oakland Athletics before the 2012 season. Cespedes hit .292/.356/.505 for the A's last season, with 23 home runs and 82 RBIs.
As of right now, though, Puig is still likely to be a minor-leaguer when the season starts, despite the big comparisons and big drool-stains from Dodgers faithful. The Dodgers outfield is loaded with talent, from Kemp and Andre Ethier to the currently hobbled Carl Crawford.
While Crawford may not be ready for opening day, Mattingly told Dylan Hernandez of The L.A. Times earlier this week that Puig isn't in line to take his place:
"Not really, in my mind. If we're going to be realistic about it, it's probably not best for him."
Puig even seems to be impressing himself. When a reporter asked him Friday night if he was surprised by his spring performance, it was a question that didn't need a Spanish interpreter. His eyes got wide. He smiled. "Yeah!"
"Where ever he goes, he can do nothing about that," Puig's interpreter said a few minutes later. "He's going to play hard where ever he goes."
If he goes to Albuquerque or Chattanooga and keeps hitting homers like he did Friday night, it may not be long before "We Want Puig" signs starting popping up at Dodgers Stadium.
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