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Yasiel Puig is nifty on the bases and in the field

Yasiel Puig gets his left hand on the base ahead of the tag for a double in the fifth inning of the Dodgers' loss to the Diamondbacks, 4-2, in their home opener.

Yasiel Puig gets his left hand on the base ahead of the tag for a double in the fifth inning of the Dodgers’ loss to the Diamondbacks, 4-2, in their home opener.

(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

The inside of Yasiel Puig’s left wrist was swollen and sore, the result of a Daniel Hudson 96-mph fastball that hit the Dodgers right fielder in the eighth inning of Tuesday’s home opener. Puig’s spirits were a little low after a 4-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

“I don’t feel good,” Puig said, “because my team lost.”

But Puig’s sense of humor escaped unscathed.

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Asked about his on-the-money relay throw from the wall that helped cut down the potential tying run at the plate in the sixth inning, Puig poked fun at his reputation as a player prone to defensive mistakes and occasional mental lapses, saying, “I hit the cutoff man. I never throw to a cutoff man in my life.”

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Some of the sights and sounds of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ home opener to the 2016 season.

And what about his sleight-of-hand maneuver at second base on his hustle double in the fifth, when, from his stomach, Puig deked Arizona second baseman Jean Segura with his right hand before reaching for the bag with his left hand?

“I was trying to get on the base,” Puig said through an interpreter. “His throw was to his left hand, so I tried to attack with my right. I wasn’t able to reach the bag, so I went again with my left. If I wouldn’t have done it with my left hand, I would have used my tongue.”

Puig, when healthy and engaged, is a dynamic player with game-changing abilities on offense and defense, and he displayed both — along with a pinch of smarts — on two of the game’s more interesting plays.

With two outs in the fifth, Puig laced a hit down the left-field line. Before his swing, he noticed Diamondbacks outfielder Yasmany Tomas playing deep. Puig didn’t hesitate as he rounded first base.

His aggressive head-first slide took him beyond second base, but Puig was able to scramble back to the bag, with umpire Mark Carlson’s safe call upheld after a 3-minute, 51-second replay review. Puig was stranded when Adrian Gonzalez flied to left on the next pitch to end the inning.

“As I’ve said time and time again, if we play the game the right way, I’ll take [the results],” Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts said. “With two outs, Tomas was playing deep. He was thinking two out of the box. Out or safe, I thought it was a great baseball play.”

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So was Puig’s barehand grab of Jake Lamb’s double as it caromed off the base of the right-field wall in the sixth. Puig spun and fired a long strike to Justin Turner, the third baseman who was in shallow right field as part of a shift.

Turner’s one-hop throw to catcher A.J. Ellis nailed the slow-footed Welington Castillo, who was trying to score from first, preserving a 1-0 lead.

“He’s just such a special player to unload the ball that fast and that accurate,” outfield coach George Lombard said. “You have to get to the ball in a hurry and get to it clean. He aimed to Turner’s throwing side, J.T. executed a great throw to the plate, and A.J. held onto the ball.”

Lombard is in his first year with the Dodgers, so he couldn’t speak to Puig’s past transgressions, but he has been impressed with Puig’s focus and execution so far.

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“There’s a lot to like,” Lombard said. “… He says he wants to win a Gold Glove, and there’s no reason he can’t do that.”

Follow Mike DiGiovanna on Twitter @MikeDiGiovanna


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