Yasiel Puig & accelerating the learning curve

Stephen Dunn

The Dodgers rookie sensation has dazzled in both of his major league games so far, including two home runs on Tuesday. Puig is the fourth Dodger with a multi-homer game in 2013, joining Mark Ellis, Carl Crawford, and Scott Van Slyke.

To say that Yasiel Puig has electrified Dodger Stadium in his two days in the major leagues might be hyperbolic, but it might not be descriptive enough to measure his impact. After his latest exploits, a two-home run, five-RBI night on Tuesday to overwhelm the Padres, the biggest impact might have been evident on the face of manager Don Mattingly.

The Dodgers skipper is normally a good natured, easy going person in general, but even he has looked weary during this disaster of a start. After all the Dodgers are still in last place (now just a half-game behind San Diego), but Mattingly walked into the interview room after Tuesday's win with a wide grin on his face and opened the proceedings by saying, "Day two," then laughing.

"He's pretty good," Mattingly said in the understatement of the year. "Those were two impressive home runs there. We saw a little bit of just about everything this guy can do. He had power both ways. It's fun to watch.

"That first home run was huge for us because Teddy struggles and we're in the pen early. It looked like one of those games we're going to fight it all night. Then all of a sudden, boom, you're back in."

Boom is right.

Or maybe it's the clubhouse, where Queen's regular version of Bohemian Rhapsody was followed by the Muppets' version of the same song before the game, and nobody seemed to mind.

"There's an aggressiveness to the way he goes about playing baseball. Certainly the results are attractive, that's obvious. But I like the mind frame," said Ted Lilly, who started on the mound Tuesday night. "To go along with that, he's got the ability to do those things. He's up there with an intent to do damage."

Puig said his mother, father and 17-year-old sister have been in attendance in his first two games. He even got both home run balls back from the fans on Tuesday.

"I'm glad I hit the two home runs, but I'm more happy that the team won," Puig said, through an interpreter. "I'm really happy to be living my dream."

Is there anything Puig can't do?

"We haven't seen him steal any bases, so I guess that's next," joked Matt Guerrier after the game.

There was the play in the first inning, when Puig was on third - he doubled to lead off the inning - and the Padres had the infield back with one out, conceding the run. Adrian Gonzalez hit a hard ground ball to second baseman Jeff Gyorko, but Puig froze momentarily and didn't score. Puig was ultimately stranded at third.

"We just wanted to make sure he kept his head up. He's going to have to deal with some of that. He wants to do everything right and wants to do really well. so when he makes a mistake like that I don't want him to hang his head," Mattingly said. "There's going to be some growing pains now and then, but obviously the other side of it is really, really good."

"There's an aggressiveness to the way he goes about playing baseball. Certainly the results are attractive, that's obvious. But I like the mind frame. He's up there with an intent to do damage." -Ted Lilly on Yasiel Puig

There was also the throwing error by Puig that allowed the Padres to score their fourth run. But Puig's throw from right field to third base was a strong one, and low, but it wasn't cut off by Hanley Ramirez and the ball got away from Juan Uribe at third base.

"For me, that ball is cutable. We have to cut it there," Mattingly said. "Teddy's got to back up. It's on line."

Thus far, the positives have far outweighed the negatives for Puig, who is hitting a robust .625/.625/1.500. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Up next

The Dodgers go for the sweep of the Padres on Wednesday night, with Clayton Kershaw on the hill looking to close out the series. Jason Marquis starts for San Diego.

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