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It's the biggest show in town! Yasiel Puig readies for his debut

June 03, 2013|By Steve Dilbeck
  • Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig works on batting technique during a workout in spring training.
Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig works on batting technique during a workout… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

Are you ready for the Yasiel Puig Show?

Not that there’s any pressure on the kid, but once again Monday, Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly compared Puig to Bo Jackson and Mike Trout. Somehow he left out Willie Mays, but there’s always tomorrow.

Puig, who was called up Sunday, is scheduled to play in his first major league game Monday against the Padres, and safe to say it is not shaping up as the typical debut.

Music blared unusually loud in the team clubhouse before the team took the field, thumping as if the Dodgers were in first place and not last. There was an unmistakable sense of excitement.

And then there was the pregame news conference for Puig, not exactly your normal introduction to the bigs. But then not every rookie defected from Cuba, signed a $42-million contract and then hit .517 in spring training.

The news conference itself could best be described as uneventful. Seated at a table on a small podium, Puig spoke politely through a translator. Fifteen-second questions received a lot of one-sentence responses.

How did he feel?

“I’m really excited and I just want to help the help the Dodgers win.”

Was he surprised that Mattingly had him leading off?

“I wasn’t surprised. I’m just going to battle at whatever position they tell me to go.”

What part of the game does he enjoy the most?

“Everything.”

About his long journey to be on the eve of his major-league debut.

“I want to thank the club. I know I can come here and help the team win.”

OK, so maybe they weren’t the most penetrating questions. Puig seemed reasonably relaxed in front of the large media contingent.

Puig, 22, was expected to bat somewhere in the middle of the lineup, but with Carl Crawford out with his strained hamstring, Mattingly liked the idea of hitting the powerful Puig at leadoff.

“Leadoff just kind of felt right,” Mattingly said. “It gives me a guy at the top with a chance to create some energy, steal a bag, he can hit a homer, he can pretty much do anything.

“As we talked about early at the leadoff spot, we talked about Hanley [Ramirez] at one time. That guy who gives you that extra at-bat. Usually if you’re down late, that spot comes around and gives you that shot. It seemed like the right guy for now. When we get Carl back, we’ll see where we go with that from there.”

When Carl gets back? That sounds like the Puig Show might have more than a two-week run.

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