DENVER — Ned Colletti performed a neat trick Sunday when the Dodgers general manager turned Matt Magill into Yasiel Puig following Sunday’s 7-2 loss to the Colorado Rockies.
The question now is, can Puig, perhaps the most hyped minor league outfielder since . . . well, since last year . . . bring enough magic to turn the Dodgers into a winner?
With half the regular lineup out because of injuries and the last-place Dodgers ranked 28th in the majors in scoring, it was clear Colletti had to do something to shake up his foundering team. Whether he did the right thing will be determined beginning Monday, when Puig is expected to make his big league debut against San Diego.
“Any time somebody walks into the stadium and gets an opportunity, it’s a chance for the start of something big,” Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly said. “That’s kind of the cool part, really. You don’t know if you’re going to end up seeing [Ken] Griffey Jr. or the next Fernando [Valenzuela] or whoever it is.”
At this point seeing that Puig is healthy is probably enough. The fact he was hitting a Southern League-leading .313 with eight home runs and 37 runs batted in in 40 games at double-A Chattanooga (Tenn.) is a plus.
On April 27 of last year, the last-place Angels called up outfielder Mike Trout three weeks into the season. They were 83-59 the rest of the way and Trout won the American League rookie-of-the-year award. On the same day, the Washington Nationals called up Bryce Harper, who sparked them to a division title while winning the NL’s top rookie prize.
“It’s not being fair to say that’s what is going to happen here. But I think he is a guy that could make a big impact,” Mattingly said of Puig, a 22-year-old Cuban defector who played his first professional game less than 11 months ago.
“This guy is a tooled-up player. He’s got power, he’s got speed, he’s got an arm.”
The Dodgers have been working on a Puig call-up for a couple of days, but they needed a roster spot — which was where Magill came in. After making an emergency start Sunday in place of Hyun-Jin Ryu — who is injured, naturally — Magill was quickly optioned back to triple-A Albuquerque. But he took some unwanted history with him, after giving up four home runs and walking nine in six innings.
No other pitcher in baseball’s post-dead ball era, which began around 1920, has given up that many home runs and walked that many batters in the same game.
Colorado got started early, with Dexter Fowler hitting Magill’s second pitch over the wall in right-center field. The Dodgers rallied to tie it in the second on Skip Schumaker’s two-run double, but that was it for the offense. And though Magill gave up only four hits the rest of the way, three of them were 410-foot-plus home runs by Todd Helton, Michael Cuddyer and Fowler again.
After that Magill showered, dressed and left a vacant roster spot for Puig.
“Hopefully he comes up here and goes off,” infielder Mark Ellis said of Puig. “You don’t want to put that all on him. But a little spark definitely wouldn’t hurt us.”