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Rookie gives Dodgers some instant spark
Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig has progressed rapidly from curiosity to full-fledged phenom.
If you haven’t heard of the 22-year-old Cuban rookie yet, you will soon.
He first caught the national eye in spring training when he hit .517 and drew comparisons to Bo Jackson.
The Dodgers decided not to rush him, sending him to Class AA. But after just 262 plate appearances as a professional, Puig earned a call-up after the latest Dodger injury, this time to Carl Crawford.
The result has been breathtaking: a pair of singles and a game-ending throw from deep right field to double a runner at first base in his first game; three hits, including two home runs, and five runs batted in during his second game; 0 for 4 with two strikeouts in his third game (hey, no one's perfect); another multi-hit game, one of them a grand slam, in his fourth game; and a game-tying homer in his fifth game.
He was the first Dodger in 40 years with three homers in his first four major-league games (before adding No. 4 in his fifth game). Elias figured out that his nine RBI in his first four games tied for the most since 1920. And he was the fourth player with two games of four or more RBI in his first four MLB games.
If ever a team needed an injection of life, it was the Dodgers. They’re hoping Puig provides a spark similar to the one provided across town last year by Mike Trout. The Angels were 6-14 when Trout came up, and 83-59 afterward.
“No doubt it’s exciting,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly told reporters. “This is a young guy who’s excited about being here. He brings a lot of that energy and he can do some things. I think we all saw that in spring training.
“Just the raw speed, power, the energy — he’s fun to watch, no doubt about it.”
Tonic for Mariners fans
If the Mariners are looking for an encouraging comparable for some of their struggling prospects, they need look no further than Phillies outfielder Dominic Brown.
It’s a familiar story. Brown was touted coming up through the minors, reaching as high as No. 4 on Baseball America's ranking of top 100 prospects (behind Bryce Harper, Mike Trout and Jesus Montero) in 2011.
But that never translated to performance at the major-league level. Brown was rushed up because the Phillies were desperate for help. He meandered through lackluster stints with Philadelphia in 2010, ’11 and ’12.
Now 25, Brown ended April this year hitting just .233 with three homers, and the muttering increased that he was close to being a bust.
But in his next 34 games, Brown went 43 for 132 (.326) with 15 home runs, 33 runs batted in and a 1.064 OPS (despite just three walks).
He leads the National League in homers, and was the NL Player of the Month in May. That’s not to say Brown won't struggle again, but he’s at least one positive example of how a touted prospect, written off as a failure, can sometimes break out.
Notes and quotes
• The Rays originally hoped that Cy Young winner David Price would miss just two or three starts with his triceps strain. But he has missed four and is still a few weeks away. It might be late June before Price returns, and “if it turned into early July, it wouldn't be a big shocker,” Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey said.
• Speaking of the Rays, they have a reputation for being one of the best in baseball when it comes to scouting and player development. So you might be surprised to learn they are the only team in MLB that has not had a player drafted from 2008-12 play in the big leagues for them.
In fact, of the 253 players they drafted in that span (and the 167 they signed), the only one to play in the majors has been infielder Derek Dietrich (second round in 2010), traded to the Marlins in December. He was called up by Miami in early May.
• Pitchers never want to see Dr. James Andrews, no matter how renowned an orthopedist he is. That goes for position players, too, which is why it’s ominous that Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper will be seeing Andrews on Monday.
Harper is seeking a second opinion on his injured left knee, which hasn’t been getting better. The Nationals have been saying that it’s just bursitis, but the swelling hasn't gone down.
Harper, 20, hurt himself crashing into the right-field wall at Dodger Stadium on May 13.
He also banged into the wall at Turner Field on April 29, and now says he should have gone on the DL earlier. He was hitting .356 with nine homers in 25 games before the April 29 collision, and .183 with three homers in 19 games after.
Through Thursday, the Nationals were 25-18 with Harper in the starting lineup, and 4-12 when he's not.