The Dodgers Puiged their way to a 5-1 victory over the Indians on Sunday, and all everyone could Puig about was Yasiel Puig, who hit a three-run home run in the seventh inning to pad the Dodgers' lead, and his resume.
It was the first home run of the spring for Puig, and it came off Fernando Nieve, who pitched in Dodgers camp in 2012 as a non-roster invitee and was in the bullpen for Triple-A Albuquerque last year. After the game, I jokingly asked manager Don Mattingly if Puig would be hitting seventh or second on opening day.
"Don't even get started," he said, laughing. "I knew this was coming as the day went along. Good question, but I don't have an answer for you."
Puig was asked if he was playing to make the team.
"I want to play hard every day," Puig said, through mentor and former big league pitcher Eddie Oropesa. "Whatever happens, that is the coaches' decision and whatever they want to do I'm going to play hard."
As general manager Ned Colletti noted, Monday marks four weeks until opening day, which is an eternity of time, and Mattingly didn't change his stance on Puig.
"Nothing has really changed. It's just fun watching him play, play with that energy," Mattingly said. "Anything is possible, but I'm not going to go into hypotheticals at this point."
Not that Mattingly hasn't been impressed with the 22-year-old Cuban outfielder.
"He hasn't really gotten into the breaking ball phase yet, but he's stayed in the strike zone," Mattingly said. "The one thing that's been impressive is that he stays in the strike zone pretty well. He's laid off some pitches and fouled off some pitches on the fringes."
Puig said he has worked with hitting coach Mark McGwire on staying back and letting the ball come to him, as Puig tended to have his body drift during his swing, sapping him of power. It was evident when he hit .232/.308/.333 in 20 games in the Puerto Rican Winter League.
"In Puerto Rico, I didn't have too much time to get ready," said Puig, who said he has had more time before and during to prepare in spring training, and specifically credited McGwire.
"I knew of him back in Cuba, as one of the great home run hitters," Puig said. "For me, it's an honor to work with him."
Puig was on the "No go" list earlier on Sunday, but Mattingly said that was by accident, that he got his signals crossed with bench coach Trey Hillman, who makes each day's elaborate schedules. Mattingly did say he originally planned to have Tony Gwynn Jr. as the backup designated hitter on Sunday, but with the groin injury Mattingly instead gave him Sunday off, to give Gwynn two off days coupled with Monday's off day.
Puig wasn't the only one who impressed on Sunday, as Josh Beckett allowed just one hit in his three scoreless innings, and struck out three.
Mattingly said Beckett mixed in his change up more on Sunday, as part of the process of getting ready for the season. The manager remains high on Beckett, and with good reason as he has a 0.00 ERA this spring.
"He was Greinke, He was Clayton. This guy knows how to pitch and he knows what he's doing," Mattingly said. "We're not talking about some guy who is searching for his identity."
The Dodgers are off Monday, but head back to Peoria on Tuesday, this time to face the Padres.