Nothing like a meaningless spring training game in the final days of the exhibition season to take the breath right out of a team.
Yasiel Puig is only the Dodgers’ most exciting, charismatic, controversial player — not to mention their best remaining right-handed power hitter — so imagine their little hearts stopping Thursday night at Angel Stadium when he collapsed in a heap in right field after a collision with second baseman Howie Kendrick.
The two had failed to communicate on a Mike Trout popup, Kendrick’s left elbow striking the face and throat of Puig as he belatedly dived for the ball. Puig went down and remained spread on the turf, his face buried in the grass for a long time.
Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly and head trainer Stan Conte rushed to his side. Puig rolled over on his back as Conte examined his neck before ultimately rising to his feet and walking off. He was replaced by outfielder Chris Heisey.
Puig was not seriously injured, but admitted afterward his neck was sore.
“A little,” he said, “but it’s good now.”
The dynamic Cuban outfielder passed a concussion test. Puig said he expected to be able to play Friday, but the Dodgers simply said they would monitor his situation. They play their season opener Monday.
The fear with Puig, of course, was always that with his Bo Jackson physique and often wild style of play, that he would hurt a teammate in a collision. The reverse had not really been considered, unless it was Puig versus a wall.
During his rookie season in 2013, Puig injured his left hand when making a diving catch in Chicago and last season injured his left thumb diving into a base.
Neither injury was serious.
The Dodgers agreed to terms with Cuban infielder Hector Olivera last month, but it could be months before he is in position to help the team.
Olivera, 30, prompted a bidding war in part because of his apparent readiness to jump directly to the major leagues. On March 24, the Dodgers struck a deal for six years and $62.5 million.
However, Olivera remains in the Dominican Republic, waiting for a visa. When he gets one, he will fly to Los Angeles for a physical examination, which will not be routine because of concerns over the condition of his right elbow. Under the deal, if Olivera requires elbow surgery, the Dodgers can add a seventh year to the contract for $1 million.
If Olivera passes his physical, the Dodgers would send him to the minor leagues. Olivera has not played professionally in two of the last three years, and the Dodgers want to assess his ability at third base, second base and perhaps first base while he gets back into game shape.
The Dodgers do not need Olivera this season, barring injuries at the major league level. But third baseman Juan Uribe and second baseman Kendrick can be free agents after the season, and Olivera would be a logical replacement for either.
Right-hander Mike Adams, 36, was scheduled to start Thursday’s bullpen game against the Angels but instead said his goodbyes to teammates and headed home. Adams, trying to overcome shoulder problems that limited him to 22 games last season, gave up five runs and seven hits with two walks and five strikeouts in his five spring appearances (42/3 innings). Mattingly said he was uncertain whether Adams was retiring. By not reporting to triple-A Oklahoma City as scheduled, he forfeited a $100,000 retention fee. … Andre Ethier, hit on the right elbow by a fastball from the White Sox’s Carlos Rodon on Tuesday, wasn’t expected to play Thursday night but subbed in left field and got one at-bat.
Times staff writer Bill Shaikin contributed to this report.