There were no absences, at least no expected absences, on the morning that position players were scheduled to report to spring training. The odd l That meant that a bulk of Don Mattingly‘s morning media discussion focused on Yasiel Puig.
It’s an old lesson, repeated: The guy commands attention.
Mattingly said that Puig’s greatest challenge this year will be to adjust to the pitchers who have already adjusted to him. Puig sported a cartoonish .443/.473/.745 slash line during his first 26 major-league games. In his next 29 games, he was merely great: .322/.413/.475. In his final 46 regular-season games, Puig was this: .234/.324/.437. Whatever that is.
The Dodgers’ mission to revert Puig to his June/July form begins now. That entails a lot of work behind the scenes, in the video room and in the batting cage.
“He has the same material,” Mattingly said. “He has the chance to know what pitchers are doing to him. The guys who make adjustments are the better players.”
The problem with spring training is that Puig will not face the same pitchers he’ll face during the regular season. Many will be in the minor leagues come April, with some exceptions. But if Puig bats, say, .517/.500/.828 like he did last spring, it’s not inherently a sign of progress. The numbers can lie.
In fact, Mattingly said, Puig exhibited the same outstanding strengths and mind-numbing foibles last year in Glendale that fans came to know and love (and occasionally hate) by June. On the field at least, Puig didn’t progress by leaps and bounds over the course of camp.
“What we saw in spring last year was what we saw during the season,” Mattingly said.
The same could be true again this spring. Many will be watching.
While I was driving through the desert yesterday, USA Today’s Jorge Ortiz caught up with Puig.