Their season crumbling under the weight of injury and poor performance, the Los Angeles Dodgers beckoned 22-year-old man-child Yasiel Puig from the minor leagues on Sunday.
Puig’s promotion from Double-A Chattanooga was hastier than general manager Ned Colletti would have planned. These are, however, desperate times for the Dodgers, who have lost four of five games, have been in the National League West cellar for the better part of a month, have outscored only the Miami Marlins in the NL, and currently are operating without star outfielders Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford.
So along comes Puig, the 6-foot-3, 245-pound Cuban defector who signed with the Dodgers last summer for $42 million over seven years. He created a stir in spring training, first with his vicious hacks and ridiculously long batting-practice home runs, then when he batted .517 with three home runs over 58 exhibition at-bats.
The Dodgers already had Kemp, Crawford and Andre Ethier in their outfield. They also were convinced Puig required more minor-league time, because he was professionally unpolished and emotionally immature. In 40 games in Chattanooga, the natural right fielder batted .313 with eight home runs and 37 RBI. He also was arrested in October and charged with speeding, reckless driving and driving without insurance.
At the time, the Dodgers reassigned Puig from major-league camp, manager Don Mattingly explained, “I kind of look at Yasiel like a Ferrari. The motor's there, the body's there, the wheels are there – everything's there, they just haven't painted it yet. You leave that out in the sun, then you get it exposed a little bit.”
A third of the way through the season, the same could be said of the Dodgers. Kemp had been ineffective, then injured his hamstring and is on the disabled list. Crawford suffered from a hamstring cramp Saturday in Colorado. Ethier is batting .240 with four home runs and 15 RBI. On Sunday, the Dodgers started Scott Van Slyke in left field (and in the cleanup spot), Skip Schumaker in center and Ethier in right.
Puig is expected to join the Dodgers on Monday when they begin a three-game series at Dodger Stadium against the San Diego Padres. Shortstop Hanley Ramirez, also out with a hamstring strain, could join the club the same series.
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