© 2013 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
PrintPrint

02/27/2013 8:14 PM ET


Puig draws first outfield start, praise from Mattingly

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Posted on the clubhouse lineup card at Camelback Ranch on Wednesday morning was a sight Dodgers fans are looking forward to seeing many times in the future:

Starting outfielder Yasiel Puig.

The club's No. 1 prospect, according to MLB.com, got the nod in center field on Wednesday and batted eighth, marking his second start of the spring and his first start in the outfield. (He was the DH on Sunday.)

Puig didn't disappoint in the Dodgers' 11-7 victory over the Cubs, lining a pair of singles and scoring three runs in a 2-for-3 day. His most impressive at-bat of the afternoon may have come in the third -- a rocket to the 410-foot sign in dead center field that the Cubs' Scott Hairston dropped for an error just in front of the wall.

Puig is 4-for-11 with a double and three strikeouts this spring. But a far more accurate assessment of his performance during Spring Training comes from manager Don Mattingly, who has had his eye on the 22-year-old since Day 1 of camp.

"The best word for me with Yasiel is 'raw,'" Mattingly said. "This guy is full speed. He is a beast. It is a body in motion. When this guy comes around the bases, it's a train coming. ... But it's raw, and it's full speed, and I like it. It's like a wild horse."

The Dodgers signed the Cuban prospect to a seven-year, $42 million deal last June. That contract came a week before MLB began limiting bonus money for international free agents.

Puig hit .354 with five homers in the Minors last year in time spent between the Arizona Rookie League and Class A Rancho Cucamonga in the California League. But he scuffled a bit in the Puerto Rican winter league, hitting just .232 with one homer and 19 strikeouts in 69 at-bats.

Now he's in his first big league camp with the club, and it's been all positives for Mattingly, though he said that's easy when you're starting a season healthy and full of energy. The real test, he said, will come as the summer grinds along.

As for how long it'll be for Puig's progression to the big leagues (MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo has his ETA at 2014), Mattingly was succinct in saying, "It's up to him."

"We'll see," Mattingly said. "The story hasn't been written yet. He didn't get to play a whole lot last year. He had some injuries and whatnot. This year hopefully will be a full season with a lot of at-bats and you get a better picture."

Return dates for Kemp, Crawford remain fluid

MESA, Ariz. -- On display in his office, Don Mattingly has lineups posted for his club's next four games. Two names have been noticeably absent all spring.

"If you were able to walk through my office and see my board, Carl [Crawford] or Matt [Kemp] are not on any of those lineups," Mattingly said.

But that's about as far as the Dodgers skipper will go in projecting when the two outfielders -- both coming off surgery -- will get their first cuts in. (Both are slated to start the spring at DH before moving to the field.)

And why should Mattingly commit to a set date for their returns? It's February. "It goes back to my thing -- let's not set hard deadlines, tell days," Mattingly said. "We don't know. We're coming off major injuries. Let's let the body tell us when it's ready."

Kemp, who underwent right shoulder surgery in October, hit in the cages Wednesday morning and felt good enough to take on-field batting practice -- off of Mattingly -- later in the workout. Mattingly said Kemp was fine and his extension, even on full swings and misses, caused no pain.

Crawford, meanwhile, did not face any live pitching on Wednesday. Coming off Tommy John surgery, Crawford has done so only once this spring. He spent Wednesday's workout tracking pitches in the bullpens to try to hone his timing.

Versatility helping Amezaga's case with Dodgers

MESA, Ariz. -- Four games, five positions -- such is the life of Dodgers utility man Alfredo Amezaga.

He has spent the first week of Spring Training games bouncing all over the diamond. On Wednesday it was second base. On Monday it was third. Over the weekend, he played all three outfield spots in a span of two days.

"It's very fun," said Amezaga, a non-roster invitee who played in the Cubs' system in 2012. "You've got to be very prepared. It's always on my mind. You have a lot of plays where [you have to know] where to go."

It's only helping his big league case. The 35-year-old Mexican journeyman has impressed manager Don Mattingly with his versatility.

"I like this guy," Mattingly said. "He's not the kid he was before, but he's a guy who does bring some stuff to the table."

Amezaga was invited to play for his native Mexico in the upcoming World Baseball Classic but opted to stay in Dodgers camp in hopes of winning a roster spot. Still, that would appear to be a long shot for Amezaga, who would likely need an injury to clear room on the bench.

Amezaga hit .274 with six homers and 12 steals for Triple-A Iowa last season. He has played for five big league clubs, the last one being Florida in 2011.

Flu keeps Cruz out of Dodgers camp for day

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Third baseman Luis Cruz spent most of Tuesday in urgent care receiving IV treatment for the flu, and he was out of Dodgers camp on Wednesday while recovering.

Manager Don Mattingly said Cruz "looked a little better today," and he is hopeful Cruz will feel well enough to be available for Thursday's game against the Angels.

Cruz, who came off the field during Tuesday's workouts, is in competition for the club's starting third-base job after he hit .297 with six homers and 40 RBIs in 296 plate appearances with the big league club last season.

Another player in a roster struggle, Tony Gwynn Jr., was held out of workouts for the second consecutive day with a groin injury. Gwynn, known mostly for his speed and defense, is hoping to lock down a roster spot as a backup outfielder. He is 0-for-1 with four walks and a stolen base this spring.

Worth noting

Dodgers infielder Justin Sellers was scratched from the travel roster Wednesday to have an ingrown toenail removed. He is expected back on the field Thursday. In three games this spring, Sellers is 0-for-2 with a hit-by-pitch.

• Dodgers No. 18 prospect Alex Castellanos hit his second home run in as many days on Wednesday -- a seventh-inning shot off the Cubs' Hisanori Takahashi. Both homers landed behind the left-center-field fence and left little doubt when they left the bat.

• Manager Don Mattingly said he asked general manager Ned Colletti for more night games toward the end of camp to better prepare his players for what the regular-season routine will feel like. That explains the three night games during the club's final five days in Arizona.

AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


dodgers.com