Multiple hamstring injuries limited Yasiel Puig to a career-worst 79 games last season, and led to winter months filled with speculation the Los Angeles Dodgers were shipping the polarizing outfielder, among other players.
Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and general manager denied on multiple instances that the club was looking to trade Puig. Both front-office executives voiced their belief the Dodgers are a better team with Puig than without him.
Friedman went so far as to call the Cuban native one of the club’s wild cards heading into the 2016 season. While Puig had the backing of the front office and new manager Dave Roberts, he was instructed to lose weight over the offseason.
The 25 year old did just that, reporting to Spring Training with a slimmer physique and renewed focus and work ethic that drew reviews from teammates, Roberts and several others. Puig got off to a hot start this season, hitting safely in nine of the first 10 games.
He batted .405/.500/.622 over that stretch, with one double, two triples, one home run, five RBIs and five walks in 44 plate appearances. However, he’s cooled off considerably in the weeks after.
Puig wasn’t in Sunday’s lineup, with Roberts giving him a day off to clear his head. It was the second instance in eight days the first-year manager sat Puig under that notion. Roberts further specified what improvements he wants to see from Puig, via Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:
“I just think a little bit of, he had a couple of good games in Tampa, but I think I just want to see consistently better at-bats, and I think he’s, again, swinging at too many balls out of the strike zone and, ironically, a little more passive with balls in the zone,” Roberts said.
Puig entered Sunday’s game in the eighth inning as a defensive replacement, and he lined a first-pitch single to right field in the ninth. He began the day batting .236/.288/.391 with four doubles, two triples three home runs, 12 RBIs, six walks and 26 strikeouts in 118 plate appearances.
Per FanGraphs, Puig is swinging at pitches outside of the strike zone 38.9 percent of the time, which is a career high. He’s made contact on 52.4 percent of those pitches. After previously sitting Puig, Roberts had him in the leadoff spot in his first game back, hoping to light a spark.
However, to no surprise, Roberts said recently he doesn’t anticipate batting Puig in the leadoff spot in the near future.