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Yasiel Puig's hitting approach is OK with Dodgers' batting coach Mark McGwire

McGwire calls it 'being ready to hit,' although others might categorize it as being overly aggressive.

August 21, 2013|By Kevin Baxter

Get Adobe Flash player MIAMI — Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire doesn't like to use the word "aggressive" when talking about Yasiel Puig's approach at the plate.

"It's called being ready to hit," he said. "When you're ready to hit and it's in your zone, go for it."

Given Puig's natural aggressiveness, er, readiness, it's unlikely he asked McGwire for permission to walk to the plate swinging. But he has certainly been successful doing it. Before Wednesday's game, he led the National League with a .630 average and was first in the majors with a .638 on-base percentage when he puts the first pitch in play.

"It doesn't worry me at all," McGwire said. "Most pitchers today want to go strike one. If it's a pitch that you want to hit, it's in the location, I'm all for it."

Puig has made that work even though pitchers know he's likely to swing at the first pitch. The rookie's tie-breaking home run against Dan Jennings on Tuesday, for example, his first since Aug. 1, was the fifth he has hit on the first pitch.

"He swings at first pitches. I understand that," said Jennings, who hadn't given up a home run this season.

"I still stand by the pitch. I feel I threw the ball well. I was one pitch away from having a great outing."

Puig was hitless in five at-bats Wednesday, leaving him three for 24 on the trip and dropping his average to .346, the lowest it has been since his big league debut June 3. Of more concern, however, is that Puig appeared to be running gingerly.

Manager Don Mattingly said Puig appeared to tweak a calf muscle but said he didn't think the injury was serious.

Tripping over the light fantastic

Among the many unique features of Marlins Park is a nightclub complete with dancers, a pool, a bar, disco lights and pulsating dance music.

And it's a feature most visiting relievers, who occupy the left-field bullpen adjacent to the nightclub, say the ballpark can do without.

"There's a lot of noise. There's craziness going on in that place," the Dodgers' J.P. Howell said. "By the fifth inning, you get a little irritated. It's harder to get into a rhythm of the game. It's frustrating."

The Marlins used that bullpen in the ballpark's inaugural season but wisely corrected that before this season, moving from left field to right field.

"There's a lot of distractions. It's really loud out there," said Marlins closer Steve Cishek, whose earned-run average was more than a run greater at home than on the road last year. "As the game goes on, it gets louder and louder. And when you're trying to get ready for a game and your bullpen coach is telling you who's coming up and strategies to pitch to him, you can hardly hear him. He's got to scream at you.

"It gets annoying after a while."

Added Howell, who worked out of the right-field bullpen when he visited with Tampa Bay last summer: "It's frigging brutal. I went from loving to come here to I hate it.

"But hey, it's an interesting experience. That's what Miami is."

Twitter: @kbaxter11

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