Yasiel Puig made himself the story again Saturday.
A day after he was benched for showing up late to batting practice, Puig slid head first into first base when he didn't have to, leaving the Dodgers waiting for X-rays of his left thumb to be reviewed by their medical staff.
Puig played the final six innings of the Dodgers' 7-2 defeat to the San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium, but could be sidelined for the series finale Sunday as the Dodgers try to avoid a three-game sweep.
If Puig can't play, it's not as serious a problem as it would be to other teams. The inevitable has finally happened. With Matt Kemp back from the disabled list, the Dodgers have their long-awaited surplus of outfielders.
Now, as long as Kemp, Puig, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier remain healthy, at least one of them will be sitting at the start of a game.
Puig was on the bench Friday. For the latest game, it was Crawford and Ethier who were tapped on the shoulder by Manager Don Mattingly and informed they wouldn't be starting.
With left-hander Madison Bumgarner starting for the visitors, Mattingly stacked his lineup with right-handed hitters. That put the left-handed-hitting Crawford and Ethier on the bench as reserves, as the right-handed-hitting Scott Van Slyke started in left field. Kemp was in center field and Puig in right.
When the Dodgers faced right-hander Ryan Vogelsong on Friday, Mattingly initially sat Kemp. But Puig was late for batting practice, which led to Kemp replacing him in the lineup.
"I'm trying to match up as best I can with our personnel and their personnel," Mattingly said. "It's what you try to do every game."
The Dodgers will face right-hander Matt Cain in the series finale.
If Puig is available, the logical odd-man out would be Kemp, a .222 hitter in 54 at-bats against Cain.
Ethier is 30 for 68 (.441) against Cain and Crawford is five for 15 (.333). Puig has only eight at-bats against Cain, but has a home run and two doubles against him.
Kemp has already made clear he doesn't like the idea he might sit. Earlier in his career, Kemp played in 399 consecutive games, which was the longest active streak in baseball at the time.
"You don't want to sit down and watch the other team beat your club, knowing you have a chance to help the team win," he said. "I think we all — us four, five outfielders — have the same attitude. We want to play every day."
Crawford was more diplomatic.
"If you're thinking about the team, it's not really hard," Crawford said.
Ethier offered an answer that was similar to Crawford's.
"I'm in the lineup, I'm not in the lineup, I'm ready every day no matter what they ask me to do every day," Ethier said.
Crawford said he doesn't feel as if he is competing for playing time.
"But I know it's all on our minds that we have to be at our bests when we are out there," Crawford said. "Obviously, if one of us fails to play at a certain level, then we obviously won't be playing. We know what's at hand here."
Even though the outfielders want to play every day, that might not be in their best interest.
"We're going to get in a stretch where there's no off-days and you're playing every day, every day, every day and somebody's dinged up, somebody's banged up, somebody needs a breather," Mattingly said.
Kemp is coming off two injury-ravaged seasons. Crawford played 116 games last year in what was considered a relatively healthy season for him.
Ethier hasn't played in 150 games in each of the last four seasons.
As for Puig, he has been dealing with shoulder and back problems for some time.
The extra weapon or two on the bench could also give Mattingly some tactical flexibility. That was the case Saturday.
Shortly after Bumgarner was replaced in the seventh inning by right-hander Santiago Casilla, Mattingly called on Ethier to pinch-hit for second baseman Justin Turner with two outs and the bases loaded.
Ethier singled to right field, driving in Van Slyke for the Dodgers' second run.
Twitter: @dylanohernandezCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times