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Dodgers' hearts stop at even thought of Yasiel Puig being injured

March 22, 2013|By Steve Dilbeck
  • Dodgers center fielder Yasiel Puig crashes to the ground after trying to make a diving catch on a fly ball hit by Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips in the fifth inning of an exhibition game Friday.
Dodgers center fielder Yasiel Puig crashes to the ground after trying to… (Mark Duncan / Associated…)

And that’s how an entire organization suddenly gasps for breath. Not exactly the way Yasiel Puig did Friday, but he was very much at the center of it all.

Puig has been something beyond sensational in his first major league camp, but after the outfielder dived for Brandon Phillips’ sinking liner in the top of the fifth inning Friday, he remained sprawled on the ground for several minutes.

Hearts stopped throughout Camelback Ranch. Puig has been the phenom of phenoms this spring, batting .520, showing power and speed. He had already tripled Friday when he came crashing hard to the turf in center field.

For a moment, the fear was he had jammed his left wrist or shoulder. But shortly after trainer Sue Falsone and Manager Don Mattingly rushed out to center, Puig was on his feet, slowly twisting his large upper frame and walking off the field.

Puig’s report: He had the wind knocked out of him.

Everyone exhaled, calmed themselves and went back to enjoying the two homers from Luis Cruz in the Dodgers’ 6-5 loss to the Reds.

Still, it tells you the kind of remarkable impact Puig has made this spring that a potential injury to the 22-year-old Cuban would briefly have the club on the verge of a panic attack -- over a player who supposedly has little chance of making the club.

But Puig has managed to exceed the high expectations for him this spring. Sign a contract for $42 million and there are going be those kind of expectations, but Puig has been even better than anyone dared dream.

Mattingly’s early spring approach was to praise Puig, but mention how raw he is (he’s had all of 82 minor league at-bats since signing last summer). Now the manager may caution that Puig still needs some polish, but mention how no one can live up to the expectations he’s creating.

Puig went one for two Friday and actually lowered his batting average.

He is expected to start the season at double-A Chattanooga, but his play has been so impressive, it’s hard to believe the Dodgers will be able to keep down on the farm for long.

Cruz's home runs were his third and fourth of the spring. Clayton Kershaw started and went six innings with mixed results, allowing three runs (two earned) and four hits with three walks, but striking out eight.

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