PITTSBURGH -- The Dodgers’ ever-changing outfield alignment might take yet another turn.
Manager Don Mattingly said he is considering using Yasiel Puig in center field after he returns from an injury to his left hand. Mattingly said he thought about it after watching Matt Kemp play right field Monday night. Kemp was a right fielder in the minor leagues, but he hadn’t started at the position since 2008 until Monday.
“He’s always felt more comfortable in right than left and it looked like it last night,” Mattingly said.
The Dodgers have struggled to find a good defensive presence in center field all season. Kemp is viewed unfavorably there by all the defensive metrics; Andre Ethier and Scott Van Slyke generally take good routes, but don’t have the speed to cover enough ground in stadiums with big outfields. Puig is easily the Dodgers’ most athletic outfielder. The team, probably because of its glut of outfielders, has kept one of its top prospects, Joc Pederson, at Triple-A all season.
So, why hasn’t Mattingly considered Puig in center up to now?
“Pretty much because he’s out of control most of the time,” Mattingly said. “Seriously, and I don’t mean it in a bad way, but he kind of scares the other outfielders from the standpoint of, he’s not going to give up. He’s going to go catch every ball. We’ve seen it when he goes all the way into Van Slyke’s area that one time and the guys back off a little bit. I think that communication at this point is still not where it should be.”
Mattingly said Puig wants to play center, but that he looked “a little rough out there,” in his 10 games in center in 2013.
In other words, Puig may not be the ideal option at this point, but he might be the Dodgers’ best option among the in-house options.
Puig missed his third straight game after being struck on the left hand by a pitch in St. Louis. Shortstop Hanley Ramirez missed his second straight game with the same injury. Mattingly said both players might be available to pinch hit Tuesday night and that neither player appears headed for the disabled list. X-rays to both players’ hands proved negative Monday.