5/30/2014 10:52 P.M. ET
Mattingly expects surge for Puig in fan voting
By Lyle Spencer and Michael Lananna / MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig is among the National League's leaders in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, but he's not leading the NL outfield All-Star race.
"It seems like the guys who were hot in April got the early votes," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said before Friday night's game with the Pirates.
Puig sits fifth in the NL outfield voting, behind Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton, the Brewers' Ryan Braun, Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen and vote leader Charlie Blackmon of the Rockies. But Puig's bat has heated up after a moderately cool April. He's batting .410/.508/.770 in the month of May, hitting eight of his 11 home runs on the season.
Puig is batting .348/.443/.631 overall -- good for second in the league in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging. Mattingly said part of the reason for Puig's current All-Star vote standing could be his polarizing nature. He draws strong opinions -- some positive, some less so.
Butera with unique view of Beckett-Liriano matchup
LOS ANGELES -- Drew Butera, who caught Josh Beckett's no-hitter against the Phillies on Sunday in Philadelphia, was back behind the plate for Beckett's start against the Pirates at Dodger Stadium on Friday night.
Butera, a 30-year-old native of Evansville, Ind., was set to take his swings against Pittsburgh southpaw Francisco Liriano, who unleashed a no-hitter on May 3, 2011, for the Twins against the White Sox in Chicago -- with Butera, amazingly enough, behind the plate.
"I was just as excited for Josh as I was for Liriano," Butera said. "These things don't happen every day. They happen once in a lifetime, maybe."
Butera has appeared in a total of 213 Major League games, making the personal achievement of orchestrating no-hitters by different pitchers in different leagues all the more remarkable.
"I was a nervous wreck from the fourth inning on," Butera said of guiding Beckett through a 128-pitch effort. "He told me he had never gotten a no-hitter into the fourth, and I'm like, great, now I'm off my thinking pattern. But he said it every inning. You try not to think too far ahead. One hitter and one pitch at a time. It never gets old."
Butera watched Beckett's confidence rise as the game wore on.
"To his credit," Butera said, "I don't think he made any adjustments. He kept doing what he was doing in the first inning."
As for Liriano's gem in 2011, Butera recalled the lefty's superb changeup and poise as major factors.
"He was controlled mentally," Butera said. "In starts before, some emotions may have gotten the best of him, but he was just locked in and everything worked. He got a little help with guys chasing pitches, but I think that's because he attacked the zone so well."
Gonzalez rests against lefty; Van Slyke in lineup
LOS ANGELES -- Adrian Gonzalez was given a rare day off on Friday against Pirates southpaw Francisco Liriano. The Dodgers' first baseman is batting .177 against lefties with only one of his 12 homers. Scott Van Slyke was inserted at first by manager Don Mattingly for the third time this season.
"One of the things with Adrian that's tough is that you always want him in the lineup," Mattingly said. "He wants to be in there. He has always, for the most part, kept himself healthy. We just want to keep him strong. He's a little older -- not ancient -- and we obviously want to keep him healthy."
Gonzalez, 32, has played at least 156 games in eight of his 11 Major League seasons.
A nine-time Gold Glove winner at first base, Mattingly is keenly aware of the defensive stress that position can create. Back issues late in his career, after he'd played more than 150 games in six seasons, might be keeping him out of the Hall of Fame. First base is more demanding on the body than a lot of people understand.
"As you get older, it's kind of hard to maintain 162 [games]," Mattingly said. "Matt [Kemp] played every day for a couple of years, and it's something to be proud of. As you get older, that extra day can help you be productive."
With one hit in 13 at-bats on the homestand, Gonzalez has watched his batting average drop to .265. The four-time All-Star has 12 homers and 36 RBIs in 54 games, seeking 100 RBIs in a season for the seventh time.
"He'll get on a run and throw up numbers," Mattingly said. "I think Adrian is fine. When he's tired, you've got to recognize it and give him a day."
Figgins fitting in behind Gordon atop lineup
LOS ANGELES -- Chone Figgins, the veteran, and Dee Gordon, the kid with the golden future, are virtually inseparable. They were linked in Friday night's Dodgers lineup by manager Don Mattingly, who had Figgins at third base, batting behind the leadoff catalyst.
"I like Chone in that spot," Mattingly said. "He's a disciplined hitter, and he's a very smart player. I saw him miss a bunt purposely recently when he picked up Dee getting a great jump and stealing a bag. Chone really understands the game. He's been great with Dee, giving him that veteran leadership and encouragement."
Figgins, seventh among active players in career steals with 339, has six hits in his past 16 at-bats, lifting his average from .125 to .250. He gives Mattingly versatility with the ability to play six positions, pinch-hit and pinch-run. Figgins was 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI behind Zack Greinke in Tuesday night's victory against the Reds.
"Chone's been looking a lot better," Mattingly said. "He can do a lot of things to help you win a game. There aren't many guys who can play that many positions as well as he can, and he's proven he can be a productive offensive player."
Figgins was signed to a Minor League contract after three seasons in Seattle. The switch-hitter was among the Angels' most valuable weapons from 2003-09.
• Chad Billingsley came out of his simulated game Thursday at Dodger Stadium in good shape, according to manager Don Mattingly, who added, "We've got to let the medical [staff] make the decision where they want to go next."
Billingsley, coming back from Tommy John surgery, indicated he would need another simulated game before considering a rehab start. On April 6, he left in the second inning pitching for Class A Rancho Cucamonga, when he had a sensation in his elbow related to scar tissue breaking up.
• Coming into Friday night's game, Dodgers starters Josh Beckett, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw and Dan Haren were a combined 24-9 with a 2.81 ERA. They haven't yet hit their strides offensively -- Kershaw (.250) and Greinke (.200) leading the way -- but Mattingly said he'll put his starters up against any with the bats.
"Beckett drags us down," the manager said, grinning. Beckett and Ryu are both hitting .111, but Ryu showed the ability to drive the ball last season, hitting .207 with three doubles and a triple. Beckett is a .134 career hitter with three homers in 268 at-bats.
• Among Yasiel Puig's many virtues this season has been his .406 batting average with runners in scoring position, third in the National League. With two outs and RISP, he's batting .396. Once again, Puig comes to the plate prepared to cause quick damage, batting .486 and slugging .919 with four homers on 37 first pitches put in play. As a rookie, Puig hit .551 with a 1.072 slugging percentage on first pitches in play, going deep nine times in 69 at-bats.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. Michael Lananna is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.