With Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez no longer on the roster, Yasiel Puig was pegged as one of the players expected to assume a larger role with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Puig is entering his second full season with the team and by all accounts, responded well to the expectations during camp.
However, while Puig’s work ethic and focus may have improved, it’s failed to carry over to the field. He was inconsistent in Spring Training, but nonetheless finished batting .263/.300/.544 with five home runs and 13 RBIs. However, in four games this season Puig is 2-for-17 with six strikeouts and one RBI.
Manager Don Mattingly gave his young outfielder the day off Saturday, instead going with Andre Ethier in right field. According to Dylan Herandez of the LA Times, the reasoning behind the switch was Mattingly’s belief Puig grows increasingly frustrated as the slump continues:
He’s just getting more frustrated, it seems like, as it goes along.”
Prior to Saturday’s game, Puig found some humor in his struggles at the plate and said it wasn’t tied to any physical ailments:
I can’t even hit it when they throw it down the middle,” Puig said jokingly in Spanish. Puig insisted nothing was wrong physically. “Maybe my eyes,” he said, still joking.
Closer Kenley Jansen, who’s still on the mend from left foot surgery, believes Puig isn’t relaxed enough:
He’s not relaxed. I’m telling him.”
While the Dodgers are only five games into the season with Puig playing in four, his poor hitting can be traced back to the latter stages of 2014 and the postseason. Puig hit .216/.296/.247 in August, then rebounded and batted .284/.376/.432 over 23 games in September.
However, he regressed in the postseason after Game 1 of the National League Division Series and at one point struck out in seven consecutive at-bats, which was one shy of tying the all-time record. Puig snapped the streak with a key triple in the sixth inning but was benched for Game 4.
With the Dodgers looking to avoid a three-game sweep at the hands of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Puig is expected to be back in the lineup.
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