Since joining the league last June, Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig has received criticism for the way he catches fly balls in the outfield.
Puig’s nonchalant style on routine fly balls had yet to cost the team until Monday night when Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim first baseman Albert Pujols noticed and tagged from first, taking second base rather easily. The play become a headline, especially after Pujols mocked Puig following the inning, and prompted manager Don Mattingly to say that he hopes his young center fielder learned a lesson.
According to Bill Shaikin of the LA Times, manager Don Mattingly has recognized Puig’s conscious defensive effort during the last few games:
Mattingly on Puig's recent 2-handed catches: "I have noticed it … Honestly, I appreciate it."
— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) August 8, 2014
Since the play, Puig has made sure to be aware at all times when fielding the ball and was even part of two big plays that helped the Dodgers take three of the final four games against their American League neighbors. On Wednesday in Anaheim, Puig came up throwing on a base hit to center and nailed Angels catcher Hank Conger at third base. Then on Thursday, Puig ran and leaped near the wall to take away two runs and at least a double away from Josh Hamilton.
Puig was recently moved to center field, due to inconsistency on defense from the team’s other outfielders, and has looked strong at the spot. Despite his miscue on Monday, Puig is continuing to learn the fundamentals and is trying to avoid the mental lapses that have plagued him since his promotion to the big leagues. He has done quite well thus far, as he has cut down on his mistakes and has even been hitting the cutoff man a majority of the time.
A smarter, more aware Puig could become the key to a Dodgers postseason run.
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