Nick Punto thriving with increased work load

Harry How

Punto has played this month in a single month since starting 27 games for the Twins in 2010.

The Dodgers try to capture the middle game of their series against the Cardinals on Saturday afternoon, and their lineup is headed by leadoff man Nick Punto, who has been one of the steadiest performers for the Dodgers this season.

"He's playing so good and given us so much energy he's really been hard to take out of the lineup," said manager Don Mattingly. "When you're writing the lineup, it's hard to say don't play Punto tonight."

Punto is hitting .323/.411/.396 this season, and has a .405 on-base percentage since joining the Dodgers last Aug. 25. In May with injuries to second baseman Mark Ellis and utility man Jerry Hairston, Punto has played nearly every day. Saturday is Punto's 18th start in May, tying him with Andre Ethier for second-most on the team, two behind Matt Kemp.

In May, Punto is hitting .279/.366/.377.

Punto has started 12 games at second base, nine games at third base, and four games at shortstop this season. The 35-year-old has played much more than Mattingly anticipated.

"It's been a little bit of everything. Injuries have given him more opportunities than we thought we would get. With his success he's playing more than he might need to, and I am worried about wearing him down," Mattingly said. "As Mark comes back it takes the load off of second base a little bit. The plan is to mix him and Dee Gordon a little bit at short the way we're situated right now, and kind of the same at third."

Ideally, the team would like Punto to play two or three times per week rather than five or six, hoping to keep him fresh throughout the season. But as we have seen, 2013 has been anything but ideal for the Dodgers, and they'll take whatever they can get. So far, Punto has been up to the challenge of providing that.

Game info

Time: 4:15 p.m.

TV: Fox

MLB Gameday

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