Dodgers News: Yasiel Puig Focused On Contributing, Keeping Ball Off The Ground
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

While the Los Angeles Dodgers have used a platoon in left field and center field through their first few games of the 2017 regular season, Yasiel Puig has started every game in right field. He’s the lone outfielder who’s been in the lineup all three games.

Puig reported to Spring Training hoping to re-establish himself as an everyday player. The Dodgers have provided him with the opportunity to play such a role. But, it’s come with a small caveat. Including the exhibition Freeway Series, Puig has been slotted in the No. 8 hole in five of the past six games.

The lone exception came when Los Angeles faced San Diego Padres left-handed starter Clayton Richard on Tuesday. Puig went 0-for-3, though the Dodgers managed just five hits and were shutout.

“I’m not used to it,” he said. “But that’s the position I was given and I’m going to ask God to keep me in the lineup. I’m going try to do my job.”

Puig hit his first home run of the season in Wednesday’s victory. “I’m focused on bettering my pitch recognition every day, working with [hitting coach] Turner Ward every day just to try to better my swing,” he said through an interpreter after the game.

Puig’s work ethic and production, or lack thereof, have been in the spotlight since his demotion last August to Triple-A Oklahoma City. Roberts recently said he’s not inclined to move the 26-year-old up in the lineup until there are better results at the plate. There was noted improvement against the Padres.

“I didn’t know if it was a changeup or slider, and he got out in front of it but stayed through the ball. He had a couple good at-bats,” Roberts said of Puig’s night. “I think the at-bat quality he’s giving us, there’s a lot to be said about stressing a pitcher one through eight (in the lineup), and Yasiel does that.”

Puig has not said whether or not hitting eighth has provided any additional motivation. He instead is focusing on doing his part to contribute, as well as keeping the ball off the ground.

“I need to put the ball in the air,” Puig said. “Or else I’m not going to have any money in my pockets.”