Relegated to the minor leagues for a month, Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig is expected to return to the majors this weekend, according to people familiar with the situation who requested anonymity because the call-up had not been finalized.
After the Dodgers acquired outfielder Josh Reddick on Aug. 1, they sent Puig to triple-A Oklahoma City due to his diminished production and troublesome attitude. But with Reddick mired in a month-long slump, Puig looks like a more appealing option after a productive slate of at-bats in the Pacific Coast League.
The addition of Puig injects an element of intrigue into an already unpredictable season for the Dodgers (74-59). They have surged to a two-game lead over the San Francisco Giants in the National League West heading into the season's final month even as questions about the club linger. Puig cannot aid the patchwork starting rotation, but he might help solve the Dodgers' issues with left-handed pitching.
The Dodgers appear willing to gamble on Puig's ability to fit within the culture fostered by Manager Dave Roberts, in which veteran players have been asked to sacrifice in the name of teamwide gains. Before he was sent down, Puig struggled at times with consistency in his work habits and in-game focus.
His performance at the plate also was an issue. Puig has posted a career-low .706 on-base plus slugging percentage. Scouts noted that Puig, 25,lacked the awe-inspiring athleticism that dropped jaws when he debuted in 2013. Fastballs overwhelmed him.
The issues contributed to Puig's demotion. The Dodgers explored trade possibilities for Puig in July. When none materialized, they elected to demote him rather than stick him in a platoon with Reddick. Before Puig left, he met with team officials, who encouraged him to foster relationships with teammates, treat his superiors with respect and improve his daily preparation.
In the minors, he passed every test presented to him. He hit .348 in 19 games with Oklahoma City, with four homers and three doubles. He enjoyed the company of the other players and earned positive reports from Manager Bill Haselman.
"The conversations we had with him at the beginning of August really resonated with him,'' Andrew Friedman, president of baseball operations, said this week ."I think there's been a very conscious effort to listen to what was said and apply it to his daily work."
The lone blip occurred on his second day with the club, when Puig posted on Snapchat a series of videos showing him carousing in a party bus with his new teammates. The Dodgers viewed the incident as slightly embarrassing but mostly harmless, a group of grownups looking to blow off steam like juveniles.
As Puig experienced success in the minors, Reddick stumbled in the majors.
He hit .161 in August with one extra-base hit (a double) and one run batted in, which came Wednesday in a doubleheader at Colorado.
The Dodgers could pair Reddick and Puig in right field as a platoon. They also will also try to find at-bats for rookie Andrew Toles, who has hit .397 for the club, including a game-winning grand slam Wednesday against the Rockies.
Toles could, in theory, take time away from Joc Pederson, who has one hit in his last 19 at-bats.
The coming days will determine how the Dodgers divvy up the playing time. But Puig is expected to rejoin the mix as early as Friday, and a wild season will get that much more interesting.
Rehab start for Kershaw
Clayton Kershaw is scheduled make a rehabilitation start for class-A Rancho Cucamonga this weekend, Friedman said at an event at Dodger Stadium. Kershaw is expected to pitch four to five innings in what should be his final tuneup before rejoining the Dodgers. He has not pitched in the majors since June 26 because of a herniated disk in his lower back.