Dodgers center fielder Yasiel Puig drops a pop fly for an error between shortstop… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )
You gotta have trust, miles and miles and miles of trust. …
Maybe that was heart, whatever. Right now, the Dodgers are oddly in a team in need of some trust. As in each other, or more specifically, in Yasiel Puig.
Puig is a 6-foot-3, 245-pound mass of solid muscle that tends to move at light speed. You do not want to get in his way. And that’s the problem.
Teammates have visions of their bodies being splattered to all parts of the outfield after being steamrolled by Puig.
“Those infielders, I know they don’t trust him,” said Manager Don Mattingly. “He comes in — and the outfielders are the same way — it’s hard to trust him because he runs into people. And he doesn’t stop and back off of balls.”
Puig can look like a runaway train desperately slamming on the brakes when he realizes some little 5-10, 195-pound willow of an infielder is on his tracks.
At most it’s dangerous, and at least it’s a defensive problem.
It reared up Saturday night in the second inning when Brandon Belt hit a pop-up to shallow center. Second baseman Mark Ellis (5-10, 190) backpedaled and appeared to be under it as shortstop Nick Punto closed in — and Puig came storming in from center.
Ellis, maybe hearing Puig call for the ball, maybe just being rational and deciding to save his life, backed off. The ball hit Puig’s glove and popped out for an error.
When Andre Ethier is in center and Puig in right, several times Ethier has had to talk to Puig about backing off and surrendering balls to the center fielder. They’ve had several close calls.
“Him and Andre out there at times, they all know to be careful,” Mattingly said. “There are smaller parts of this game that nobody really notices. It’s not on ESPN. They show the home runs and the throws from right field. There are little finer points that everyone has to better at, and those are some off the finer things we look at with Yasiel.”
It’s an odd issue to have this late in the season, but it goes back to the things the Dodgers talked about in spring training in regards to the 22-year-old Puig and his rawness.
Players have to trust one another on the field, not be fearful. If not miles of trust, at least a couple hundred yards.