03/19/2013 8:43 PM ET
Puig's performance this spring too good to dismiss
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Dodgers didn't develop 15 Rookies of the Year by sending their phenoms to the Minor Leagues for more seasoning, which brings them to the dilemma of Yasiel Puig, who is making management think long and hard about whether he's ready for the Big Show.
Puig has only 95 professional plate appearances after sitting out the 2011 season, but in his first Spring Training, he's set the Cactus League on fire with a .500 batting average and .804 slugging percentage.
It continued in Tuesday's 7-1 win, when he outdid fellow Cuban left fielder Yoenis Cespedes of the A's by going 4-for-4 with a homer, and he would have had a cycle if he hustled out of the box in the fifth inning, when Cespedes instead threw him out trying for a double.
Management won't say what chance Puig has of making the Opening Day roster, but when a rookie gets four at-bats in a game 12 days before the season starts, somebody will take a serious look.
Puig has a huge hurdle to clear, as the outfield is being manned by former All-Stars Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, but he has been too good to ignore or dismiss.
"It's rare in a Spring Training game that everybody will stop what they're doing to see someone hit," said general manager Ned Colletti, comparing Puig's buzz with that created when Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco arrived with Oakland. "That's what happens. The crowd, scouts, the front office, they drop whatever they're doing."
The club spent $42 million on the unproven Puig off workouts last summer, even though other clubs laughed, so somebody apparently knew what they were doing.
"He hasn't disappointed anybody," Colletti said.
Yet after watching Crawford participate in cutoff and relay drills on Tuesday, Colletti is convinced Crawford's elbow will allow him to be the starting left fielder on Opening Day. Bringing up Puig, 22, to sit on the bench is not an option.
Puig realizes what he's doing isn't normal, and he thanked God for making it possible. He also said, through an interpreter, that he will understand if he is sent down.
"If it's Single-A, Double-A, Triple-A, I'll continue to play hard," Puig said. "Wherever God sends me, I'm going to [play] really hard."
Manager Don Mattingly, who only days ago said that Puig needs to play every day in the Minor Leagues, backpedaled only slightly after Puig's latest display, but he explained why he's reluctant to rush Puig to the Major Leagues.
"At this point he's creating expectations he can't live up to," Mattingly said. "Nobody can."
Mattingly said there isn't a whole lot not to like about Puig, except for the lack of hustle on his second single on Tuesday, which Puig admitted to Mattingly was a mistake. It cost Puig a double, and in the process a cycle, as he also homered, tripled, singled and stole a base.
Those are the mistakes that have old-timers believing Puig should start the season in the Minors. Colletti adds the reminder that no matter what Puig is doing, he's doing it in Spring Training.
"We've all seen it. Opening Day hits, and everything's different," Colletti said. "It's faster. It's real. It's the big leagues. You can't replicate that here."
Greinke's return likely to come in Minor League game
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Zack Greinke will pitch in a game on Wednesday for the first time in nearly three weeks.
Greinke last did so on March 1, going three innings. He's battled soreness in his elbow since then, and dealt with a bout of the flu, but he has responded well enough to last week's injection of platelet-rich plasma and anti-inflammatory medication that he's tossed without discomfort for three consecutive days.
Manager Don Mattingly said that Greinke will pitch in a Minor League game in the afternoon, with A.J. Ellis staying back to catch instead of playing in the Dodgers' Cactus League game against Kansas City.
Greinke has thrown only five innings this spring and will be on a crash course to rack up enough foundational innings to build the arm strength needed to start the season on the active roster.
Because of scheduled days off, the Dodgers don't need a fifth starter until April 13, and it's now unlikely that Greinke will make his originally scheduled first start on April 2. Chad Billingsley is now penciled into that slot, although he is nursing a bruised right index finger and will miss his scheduled start on Wednesday.
Billingsley, who is able to throw all of his pitches except the curveball, is planning to throw a bullpen session on Wednesday and pitch in a game on Saturday.
Mattingly also said that Aaron Harang, who was to pitch in a Minor League game in Thursday, instead will start the game against the Royals.
Gordon sprains left ankle, held out of workouts
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon, who said he was fine after an awkward home-plate slide on Monday, wasn't so fine on Tuesday.
Gordon has a left ankle sprain and he was held out of workouts. His game is speed, so Gordon is unlikely to return until he is completely pain-free.
Gordon is a long shot to make the club anyway because Hanley Ramirez is the starting shortstop and Gordon plays no other position.
However, Gordon has enjoyed bonus playing time while Ramirez is participating in the World Baseball Classic and showed a more relaxed approach at the plate with a marked increase in walks and on-base percentage.
Manager Don Mattingly said Gordon is day to day.
Capuano, Hairston encouraged after win
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Chris Capuano and Jerry Hairston had the best performances by non-Cubans in Tuesday's 7-1 win over the A's.
While Yasiel Puig was outslugging fellow Cuban left fielder Yoenis Cespedes, Capuano had his best start of the spring, and Hairston his best day at the plate.
Capuano was charged with one run on five hits in 5 2/3 innings. Hairston, who went into the game with a .174 batting average, homered and doubled.
"The best I felt this spring," said Capuano, who is trying to wrestle his way back into the rotation. "I had pretty good rhythm. I went back to the keys that have worked for me in the past. I didn't try to be too quick to the plate. I had better fastball command to both sides of the plate."
Capuano, who brought a 10.61 ERA into the start, has been feeling the pressure of competing for a job "a little bit."
"You definitely want to do well, to make an impression, but we players realize that ultimately, we make the decision," he said. "Management isn't arbitrary. It's no different than the pressure we face throughout a season in a big game or getting to the playoffs."
Meanwhile, Hairston wasn't concerned with his low average, saying that he's been working on mechanics after recovering from surgery on his left hip.
"I knew coming in this would be a long Spring Training," said Hairston. "I wanted to see a lot of pitches and get my feet underneath me, and coming off hip surgery, just wanted to make sure I'm healthy and ready for the long season. I feel good, and I'm ready."
Simers thanks Dodgers' training staff following stroke
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Los Angeles Times sports columnist T.J. Simers gave the Dodgers' training staff credit for saving his life after he suffered a mini-stroke on Saturday while in Arizona to cover Spring Training.
Simers told Times beat reporter Dylan Hernandez that he wasn't feeling well. Hernandez then told Dodgers public relations consultant Steve Brener, who contacted club trainer Sue Falsone, who sent trainer Aaron Schumacher to take Simers to the emergency room.
Simers remained hospitalized overnight and was visited by Brener, Hall of Fame manager Tom Lasorda and general manager Ned Colletti.
Simers was discharged the next day and is doing well, Brener said.
Dodgers cut trio of Sellers, Tolleson, Flores
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Dodgers made three more cuts Tuesday morning, optioning infielder Justin Sellers and pitcher Shawn Tolleson and reassigning catcher Jesus Flores to the Minor Leagues.
The reassignment of Flores confirms that Tim Federowicz will be the backup catcher to A.J. Ellis, which has been the expressed plan all spring.
Sellers, who filled in last year after injuries struck until his back went out after he crashed into the stands catching a foul ball, also was slowed this spring by an injured toe, ankle and the flu.
Tolleson also spent most of last season in the Major Leagues after injuries thinned out the bullpen, but his spring was hampered by a pair of minor injuries.
Mostly, however, Sellers and Tolleson are blocked by a glut of veteran players.
In Sellers' case, the Dodgers have Jerry Hairston, Skip Schumaker, Elian Herrera and non-roster utility player Alfredo Amezaga that can do many of the things he can.
In Tolleson's case, he's down on the bullpen depth chart below Matt Guerrier, non-roster veteran Kevin Gregg and Josh Wall.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.