When Yasiel Puig returned from his minor-league exile in September, the Dodgers assigned him a diminished but specific role. The acquisition of Josh Reddick took at-bats away against right-handed pitchers. Puig started only against the left-handers, a task he accomplished with distinction, posting a .900 on-base plus slugging percentage in the final month of the season.
Reddick left in free agency during the winter. The Dodgers decided not to trade Puig, and instead re-installed him as their starting right fielder. Heading into Sunday, Puig had hit 18 homers, one shy of his career high, with a .799 OPS, his best since 2014.
Yet with Miami starting a left-handed pitcher on Sunday, Puig rode the bench. His day off was partially in deference to his reverse split in 2017, a reversal of the trend he appeared to establish last season. Puig has batted only .164 against left-handed pitchers, while hitting .282 against righties.
“In talking to him, he just says that the ball coming into him, from left-handers, he’s just not seeing it well,” manager Dave Roberts said. “The hard [fastball] in, and the changeup under the zone, as opposed to the right-hander coming across and going away from him — he just feels more comfortable. I don’t get it.”
Enrique Hernandez started in right field on Sunday. Trayce Thompson started in center. Roberts indicated he was committed to giving every position player on his roster a start during this series. He was able to do, with the exception of Chase Utley.
Adrian Gonzalez is making progress
Adrian Gonzalez (herniated disk) took 60 swings off a tee before Sunday’s game. He was scheduled to fly back to Los Angeles and skip the team’s two-game trip to Chicago. Gonzalez is still at least two weeks away from starting a rehabilitation assignment, Roberts said, but is making progress.
The biggest test for Gonzalez will involve running the bases and taking batting practice on multiple occasions to gauge the readiness of his back. He could accomplish those tasks during the upcoming home stand, which lasts from July 20 to 30.
The team does not need to rush Gonzalez back. Cody Bellinger has surpassed Gonzalez’s production at first base, and the team is deep in the outfielder. But Gonzalez was still a useful hitter in 2016, and the Dodgers would like him to be available to contribute as the playoffs approach.
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