Yasiel Puig is hitting .464 with four home runs and 10 runs batted in through the first seven games of his major league career. The rookie outfielder has spent every one of those games as the Dodgers’ leadoff hitter.
But before Sunday’s 8-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves, Manager Don Mattingly said he strongly considered moving Puig to the cleanup spot.
“I just about had him in the 4-hole today so it is something I’m looking at,” Mattingly said. “We’ve got to have somebody back there because somebody has to protect Adrian.”
Adrian Gonzalez, now the Dodgers’ regular No. 3 hitter with Matt Kemp on the disabled list because of a hamstring injury, leads the team with eight home runs and 43 RBIs. But finding adequate protection in the lineup spot immediately behind Gonzalez has been a challenge for Mattingly.
Scott Van Slyke went 0 for 4 with a strikeout and six runners left on base in the No. 4 spot Sunday. Before that Andre Ethier went hitless in three at-bats Saturday and Van Slyke did the same Friday.
The powerful Puig said after Sunday’s game that he actually doesn’t like batting fourth. He said he primarily hit third in Cuba, and at double-A Chattanooga (Tenn.) earlier this season.
“I really don’t like batting cleanup, but I’ll hit wherever [Mattingly] wants me to hit, wherever that may be,” Puig said.
Dodgers cleanup hitters are batting .286 with four home runs and 34 RBIs this season. Of the six players whom Mattingly has slotted fourth, Gonzalez (25 games) and Kemp (17) have accounted for all of the home runs and 28 of the RBIs.
Five other places in the batting order have supplied more home runs, including the No. 8 hitters.
“Puig starts to look like we may have to move him to the middle of the order,” Mattingly said.
Here’s a full breakdown of Dodgers cleanup hitters this year:
Gonzalez, 25 games, .386, 2 HRs, 19 RBIs.
Kemp, 17 games, .279, 2 HRs, 9 RBIs.
Ethier, 10 games, .162, 0 HRs, 3 RBIs.
Van Slyke, four games, .071, 0 HRs, 0 RBIs
Hanley Ramirez, three games, .200, 0 HRs, 2 RBIs.
Ramon Hernandez, two games, .222, 0 HRs, 0 RBIs.