Yasiel Puig returned to the lineup Friday in the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-1 win and made his first start this season in center field and just the seventh of his career.
However, it Puig’s performance at the plate wound being the story as he became the first Dodger to hit three triples in a single game since 1901. Puig recorded just three putouts and didn’t record his first until the eighth inning.
Following the win, Puig said he prefers to play in center and manager Don Mattingly added he’s currently the team’s best option at the position. While Puig enjoys being a center fielder, he’s also aware of its dangers, according to Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times:
In right field, if you dive and the ball gets behind you, you have the wall,” Puig said. “In center field, it’s another matter. If you dive and miss, it could turn into an inside-the-park home run.”
Puig also acknowledged a change in needing to be aware of what’s in front of him as a center fielder:
In center, it’s right, left, short or second base.”
Mattingly was initially hesitant to move Puig over and before making the decision to do so, Carl Crawford appeared to be in consideration to anchor the outfield. Although he referred to him as the best option, Mattingly said he wasn’t sure how long Puig would remain in center.
In his career, Puig has logged 65.1 innings in center field over a span of 12 games. Despite his history with taking risks defensively, Puig has only committed one error in center.
With the situation in a bit of a limbo, Andre Ethier’s status in the outfield is once again muddied. Ethier pinch-hit Friday and may now go back to platooning with Carl Crawford in left field.
Should Puig permanently take hold of the center field position, it may also have an impact on Joc Pederson’s rise to the Majors. Pederson’s performance at the Triple-A level, which includes a recent grand slam, have many calling for his promotion.
While Pederson does have experience at the corner outfield positions, he’s primarily served as a center fielder. That being said, the situation with Matt Kemp and whether or not he’s traded, could have the the biggest influence on how quickly Pederson joins the Dodgers.
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