New Phenom Gives Dodgers Life
The last place Dodgers needed a spark, something to energize a perplexed fan base, someone to inspire teammates to perform better.
They had a 22-year-old phenom in the minor leagues but there was a difference of opinion in the front office.
Sure, Yasiel Puig had talent. Sure he would inspire comparions to Mike Trout, the similarly-talented kid who came up to the Angels last year and quickly thrived in major league competition.
But this Dodger, a Cuban defector who was signed to a $42 million, seven-year contract, brought question marks besides good size, outstanding power and a strong arm to Dodger Stadium. He hit .519 in spring training but didn’t draw a walk. He had been arrested for driving recklessly and without a license.
Should the Dodgers leave him at Double-A Chatanooga to gain some experience?
Perhaps they’re desperate but they decided to bring up Puig. Too immature to begin a big league life? We’ll see.
Well, Puig’s first impression Monday night was a rousing success.
He made one of the most eagerly-anticipated debuts in Dodger history by playing right field, leading off and hitting two singles. He became the first Dodger since Russell Martin in 2006 to get more than one hit in his first game.
And he made a spectacular throw to end the game. With two outs and a runner on first, a ball was hit to deep right field. Puig caught it, threw on the fly to first base and doubled the runner off to end the Dodgers’ 2-1 victory.
‘It was a Hollywood ending,” said Manager Don Mattingly.
Puig’s second game was better. He hit two home runs and a double, driving in five runs in the Dodgers’ 9-7 victory.
“I’m happy to be living a dream,” said Puig, who has the help of an interpreter in interviews.
This is the second time I’ve written about Puig.
The first time was in spring training when I quoted baseball scouts who said Puig is built like Bo Jackson and runs faster than Dee Gordon.
Not only is he a spectacular player he’s 6-foot-3 and weighs around 240 pounds.
So he’s given Dodger fans an injection of hope. But there are things to consider.
First, the fact that with Matt Kemp on the disabled list the Dodgers don’t have a quality centerfielder. If Puig plays right Andre Ethier moves to center and he leaves a lot to be desired there.
Second, when scouting reports get around phenoms often find difficulty repeating their original success. It’s dangerous for the Dodgers to pin their hopes on such an inexperienced player.
But don’t try that to tell the 37,000 fans who were at Dodger Stadium Monday and a similar number who attended Tuesday’s game.
Suddenly the Dodgers have life. And if Kemp and Carl Crawford come back strong from injuries and Zach Greinke emerges from his dismal pitching stretch the Dodgers just might make a bid for a playoff berth after all.