MIAMI — Don Mattingly's patience with Yasiel Puig finally ran out Tuesday, when the Dodgers manager held the rookie outfielder out of the starting lineup, then fined him for arriving at the ballpark more than half an hour late.
But the benching didn't last long, with Puig entering the game in the sixth inning as part of a double switch, then hitting a tiebreaking home run two innings later in the Dodgers' 6-4 win over the Miami Marlins.
Mattingly said the decision to bench Puig was made hours before the player's tardy arrival and was "simply baseball."
"Yasiel's been struggling," he said of Puig, who was hitless in 11 at-bats before Tuesday and was just two for 17 on the Dodgers' trip.
What probably played a bigger role in the decision, though, was Puig's continued lack of self-control. Despite frequent reminders from Mattingly and his coaches, Puig has repeatedly made Dodgers pitchers' lives more difficult by overthrowing the cutoff man. He's also run into 12 outs on the bases, and twice in his previous four games he'd shown up umpires, growing so emotional Monday that teammate Juan Uribe had to intervene in an attempt to calm him.
"Obviously, I'm not getting the message across," an exasperated Mattingly said last week. "But we're going to keep trying and hope he understands."
Puig has sat out an entire game twice since joining the Dodgers on June 3 and has been held out of the starting lineup five times in 70 games, sometimes because of injury.
As for Tuesday's tardiness, Mattingly said Puig told him he got caught in traffic. He didn't enter the clubhouse until 4:50, 35 minutes before the team took the field for pregame stretching and more than 30 minutes after he was due.
"That doesn't make it better. He's just got to leave earlier," said Mattingly, who told reporters that Puig's fine was "more than a dollar, less than $10,000."
Mattingly levied the fine during a 10-minute closed-door meeting with Puig that the manager said was constructive.
"It gave me a chance to talk about different things," he said.
Getting Matt Kemp back from the disabled list would give Mattingly more options with his outfield, easing the pressure to start Puig every day. But it doesn't look like that will happen any time soon.
Kemp has been out a month with a sprained left ankle. And though he's begun making slight turns while jogging in the outfield, the training staff shut him down Tuesday. The Dodgers do not have a timetable for his return.
"It's not going as fast as we would like or probably Matt would like. But that's the way it is," Mattingly said. "We're not going backward. We're just not going forward very fast."
The Dodgers have been pointing for a return by Sept. 1, when rosters expand. Another factor: Minor league seasons end Sept. 2, meaning Kemp would have no place to play a rehab game after that date.
"There really isn't much you can say," said Kemp, who clearly favors the ankle when he walks. "Whenever I'm ready I'll be ready."
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