If Yasiel Puig were hitting to his capabilities, the Dodgers probably never would have sent him to the minor leagues. For all the talk of his coachability and his need to be a better teammate, teams tend be far more tolerant of players whose bats strike fear in the hearts of opposing pitchers.
If his first seven games at triple-A are any indication, Puig has not lost that capability. He is batting .481, with 13 hits in 27 at-bats. He has hit three home runs and struck out once. His OPS is 1.474.
The Dodgers are not likely to jump to any grand conclusions based on seven minor league games. Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts noted the other day that triple-A pitching is not what it used to be, with young starters often promoted from double-A to the major leagues, and with the use of seven-man and eight-man bullpens in the majors requiring extra relievers that otherwise would be at triple-A.
For their part, in the 13 games since they announced that Puig would be demoted, the Dodgers are averaging 5.2 runs per game — a small sample size, to be sure, but up from their season average of 4.5.
Josh Reddick, the replacement for Puig in right field, is batting .163 and has yet to hit a home run or drive in a run. But the bottom line might be this: The Dodgers just moved into sole possession of first place in the National League West, for the first time since May 10.
The Dodgers have not said when — or if — Puig would return to Los Angeles.
“I think that’s up to Yasiel,” Roberts said the other day. “If he chooses to continue to grow as a baseball player and as a man, then he’d be welcome back here.”
The better Puig plays in the minors, of course, the greater the interest might be in another team trading for him. Puig lives in Miami, and the Marlins have a desperate need for a right-handed hitting outfielder. But Puig has a checkered history with the Marlins’ manager, a guy by the name of Don Mattingly.