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Dodgers' Don Mattingly increasingly willing to sit Yasiel Puig

Dodgers' Don Mattingly increasingly willing to sit Yasiel Puig
Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig watches from the dugout during the team's 8-4 home-opening loss to the Giants in 2014. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Don Mattingly has released his lineup for Sunday's series finale against the Pirates, and Yasiel Puig is not in it.

Which is exactly as it should be.

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Puig is having a disappointing season thus far, and has particularly struggled the last month, batting .171 with .229 on-base and .329 slugging percentages.

Mattingly has shown an increased willingness to sit Puig this season. This is the third time in seven games Puig has been on the bench to start a game.

I get that Mattingly has his critics, but this is the correct move. The season is down to its last eight weeks and if a player is not producing, he should not be receiving consistent playing time. Particularly a young player with an uneven history. This is not development time, it's what Magic Johnson coined winning time.

Last season Puig was in a similar slump in early September and I wrote he should be sat, and you'd think I written Vin Scully was a hack. Lots of mostly unpleasant comments. Other bloggers tried to take me to task.

The basic theme was Puig was ridiculously talented and everyone goes through a slump. Aside from series in hitting-friendly Wrigley Field and Coors Field, Puig never did get it going. Mattingly ultimately benched him in the playoffs.

In Puig's rookie season he put up a fairly stunning .319/.391/.534 slash line. Thus far this season he has .242/.316/.414 line.

Now this is not to say Puig should be benched, just used more judiciously. He's sitting Sunday against right-hander Charlie Morton. Last season Puig actually hit right-handers better than left-handers, but this season it's gone the other way; .236/.296/.390 vs. right-handers, .276/.389/.511 vs. left-handers).

Mattingly is starting Carl Crawford in the outfield in place of Puig on Sunday and he told reporters in Pittsburgh he will continue to rest Puig.

"We definitely want to mix it up," Mattingly said. "I don't think anybody's going to be affected in a negative way. The days off are good for Yasiel. Honestly when he gets them – I don't know if he was just used to playing less in Cuba – but his focus seems to be sharper when he's getting a day off a week. I don't think it's going to affect any body negatively. It helps Carl and it really helps all of us."

No one is dismissing Puig's talent. Maybe he returns to superstar form and leads the pennant rush charge. Swell. He'll certainly get his opportunity. But neither should Mattingly feel wedded to his potential if he is not producing down the stretch.

So for now, Puig gets his "rest" days. As it should be.

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