The bat was OK, and promises to do more. But the arm. Oh, the arm is already ready for a closeup.
Yasiel Puig made his much-anticipated major league debut Monday night a memorable one by using his powerful and accurate right arm to complete a game-ending double play, catching the San Diego Padres off guard in a 2-1 victory at Dodger Stadium.
"That's one happy Cuban," Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully said.
Puig, a 22-year-old defector from from Cuba whom the Dodgers signed in 2012, has drawn comparisons to Bo Jackson for his athleticism, but a fairer association might be Vladimir Guerrero, a free-swinger from the Dominican Republic who also, of course, had a big arm. The Dodgers had said they wanted Puig to grow in the minors, and he was flourishing at Class AA Chattanooga — aside from a couple of incidents that showed a lack of maturity.
But after injuries to Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford left them depleted, the Dodgers acted.
Puig also finished with a pair of hits, though his results at the plate were nothing like the impressive show he put on during spring training and the minors. His defense, conversely, is big-league ready.
With one out in the ninth and Chris Denorfia running from first base on a pitch by Brandon League, San Diego's Kyle Blanks hit a fly to the warning track in right. After backpedaling, Puig made a one-handed catch, gathered himself and unleashed a laser toward first base as Denorfia desperately tried to get back to the bag. Plate umpire Mark Wegner, late to cover first after Laz Diaz had gone into the outfield as he was supposed to, hesitated for a moment — and appeared to look toward second base — before calling Denorfia out.
Denorfia and Padres coach Dave Roberts couldn't believe it — but the call appeared to be correct — and the Dodgers collectively celebrated, needing something to excite themselves after coming in nine games below .500 and in last place in the NL West.
Lest we should give all of the credit to Puig, this is what first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said about the play, as reported by Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register:
... Gonzalez said real heroes on the play were middle infielders Luis Cruz and Nick Punto.
... Denorfia was running on the pitch and slid into second base when Cruz and Punto pantomimed a double-play grounder. Denorfia had to scramble to his feet and was called out on a very close play at first base.
“It was an incredible throw. ... But the biggest part of that play is faking him out,” Gonzalez said. “If they don’t do that, he’s standing up at first base.
“It was a big throw. It had to be on target which it was. As soon as he let go of it I knew we had a shot because I took a peek and saw where Denorfia was.”
So Cruz and Punto brought their "A" deception game to make Puig even more dangerous. It's a team game, after all.
Puig made two other throws earlier in the game that gave everyone an idea of the strength — and accuracy — of his arm. It's quite a hose.
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