Apologetic Puig misses Dodgers home opener

BETH HARRIS (AP Sports Writer)
The Associated Press
Apologetic Puig misses Dodgers home opener
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Los Angeles Dodgers' Yasiel Puig breaks his bat as he grounds out while playing the San Diego Padres during the third inning of an opening night baseball game on Sunday, March 30, 2014, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Yasiel Puig was scratched from the starting lineup after arriving late for the Los Angeles Dodgers' home opener on Friday.

The rest of the team was already on the field stretching before batting practice while Puig was getting dressed in the clubhouse. He had been slated to start in right field for the afternoon game against the San Francisco Giants, who beat the Dodgers 8-4.

''I'm sincerely sorry,'' Puig said through a translator after the game, explaining that he didn't realize stretching and batting practice would be held so early with a 1 p.m. start.

Puig said he apologized to manager Don Mattingly and his teammates, and they accepted.

''They felt it was OK when I owned up to it and apologized,'' he said. ''I felt bad I wasn't out there playing for all the fans.''

Instead, Matt Kemp replaced Puig in the lineup after manager Don Mattingly had earlier said Kemp wouldn't start. Kemp came off the disabled list on Friday after rehabilitating from left ankle and shoulder operations. He was limited to 279 games during the last two seasons because of injuries.

Puig, last year's runner-up for NL Rookie of the Year, was 5 for 20 through his first five games of the season. He wasn't used as a pinch-hitter because Mattingly said the situation didn't call for it. The Dodgers trailed 8-0 after two innings.

Mattingly downplayed Puig's mistake.

''He truly felt bad,'' the manager said. ''You can tell by his body language; he doesn't hide things well.''

Mattingly said he thought not allowing Puig to play was more fitting punishment than fining him a couple hundred dollars.

''He felt bad he wasn't here and I believe that,'' Mattingly said. ''He's a good kid. Does he have to grow up and get better? Yeah, but there's a lot of guys like that.''

It was the latest in a series of frustrations for the team involving Puig.

Last week, Mattingly called a team meeting after the 23-year-old Cuban defector made two mistakes on the basepaths during the Dodgers opening two-game trip to Australia.

The dynamic right fielder became an instant sensation last year when he made his big league debut in early June and helped lead the Dodgers from last to the NL West title. But Mattingly often was frustrated by Puig's decision-making in the field and on the bases.

Puig twice was arrested for reckless driving last year, when his effort on the field also came into question at times. He went 5 for 22 (.227) with 10 strikeouts and committed defensive miscues against St. Louis in the NL championship series.

He remains a fan favorite, but the Dodgers want to see Puig grow up, be consistent and show better judgment on and off the field.

Catcher A.J. Ellis chalked Puig's mistake up to something that can happen to any player in the mix of day and night games.

''It's one of these learning experiences,'' Ellis said. ''He's going to be fine. I'm sure he'll be very prompt and on time for the rest of his career, hopefully.''

Saturday's game against the Giants also starts at 1 p.m.

''I'll be here early,'' Puig said.

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