CHICAGO — Yasiel Puig was out the Dodgers’ lineup Sunday because of a bruised thumb suffered on a diving catch the previous day.
But the condition of the thumb improved enough to where Manager Don Mattingly felt comfortable sending Puig to the on-deck circle in the ninth inning of the Dodgers’ 1-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs. Mattingly was hopeful Puig could start Monday in St. Louis against the Cardinals.
“Better today than we kind of anticipated,” Mattingly said.
Then again, Mattingly’s prognostications on matters such as these have been notoriously unreliable. Before each of the three times Matt Kemp was put on the disabled list, Mattingly predicted Kemp would be back in a day or two.
For what it’s worth, Mattingly claimed to be more certain about Puig’s status than he was of Kemp’s any of the three times Kemp was injured.
“I feel like we’re out of the woods,” Mattingly said.
Puig was replaced in right field by Skip Schumaker for the series finale against the Cubs. Mattingly’s thoughts before the game were to use Puig as a pinch-runner or late-inning defensive replacement.
Mattingly instead decided to have Puig hit for reliever J.P. Howell in the ninth inning.
There was one condition: Mattingly didn’t want Puig to swing the bat, so Puig would try to bunt for a hit.
But Puig never reached the batter’s box, as Juan Uribe lined out to center field to end the top half of the inning.
Chris Withrow shines again
When the Dodgers had to open a roster spot for starting pitcher Stephen Fife on Sunday, they could have sent down rookie right-hander Chris Withrow. Unlike most of the team’s other relievers, Withrow lacked the necessary major league service time to be able to reject a minor league assignment.
But Withrow has become such an integral part of the bullpen that the Dodgers instead optioned outfielder Scott Van Slyke to triple-A Albuquerque, even if it meant playing with a four-man bench.
Withrow showed why Sunday.
He entered the game in the sixth inning with one out, the bases loaded and the Dodgers up, 1-0. He preserved the lead by getting Donnie Murphy to pop up in the infield and getting pinch-hitter Cole Gillespie to ground out to first base.
Withrow retired the side in the seventh inning.
Withrow, who is being used in high-leverage situations with greater frequency, said he has simplified his thought process to avoid being overwhelmed by the moment.
“I had to just come in and just focus on execution,” he said. “I couldn’t come in and let the situation of the game over-dictate what I needed to do.”
Withrow hasn’t given up any runs in the 81/3 innings over his last six appearances.
Ted Lilly is released
Ted Lilly became a free agent, as he cleared unconditional release waivers. The veteran left-hander was designated for assignment last week.
The Dodgers are responsible for the remainder of Lilly’s $12-million salary. If another team signs Lilly, it would have to pay him only the prorated share of the major league minimum salary of $490,000.