SAN DIEGO -- The Los Angeles Dodgers have been happy with many of the strides Yasiel Puig has made in baseball fundamentals this season. But there’s one area that has them concerned not only for Puig’s performance but also for his safety: sliding.
For the past two weeks, Puig has been bothered by a strained left hip muscle, an injury he picked up while making an awkward slide in Colorado. He had to come out of Friday night’s game in San Diego, but he was back in the lineup Saturday.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said he doesn’t want Puig performing with any less intensity or effort because he thinks that’s fundamental to his type of play.
“I think guys who are cautious wind up getting hurt,” Mattingly said.
However, the Dodgers would like Puig to learn to slide better. He seems to choose a different style of pulling into a base every time he runs -- often going in standing up, sometimes diving headfirst and when he slides feet first, rarely looking natural or comfortable.
His lack of sliding ability is part of the reason that, despite excellent speed, he has just seven stolen bases. He rarely gets the green light.
Mattingly said teaching Puig to slide more consistently will be an emphasis next spring. When asked why the Dodgers didn’t work on it with Puig during the season, he paused for a few seconds.
“I don’t know because I’ve never really been around it, where you need to learn to slide,” Mattingly said.
It might seem like a Little League skill, but the Dodgers became convinced sliding isn’t taught much in Cuban baseball when Alex Guerrero, a former teammate of Puig’s in Cienfuegos, showed up to spring training and had no concept of how to slide. After that, it became a running joke among Dodgers players.