News Column

Yasiel Puig Shows up Late, Smacks Homer

August 22, 2013

All it took was one swing of the bat for Yasiel Puig to go from doghouse to Dodgers hero.

After showing up late to the ballpark Tuesday, Dodgers manager Don Mattlingly fined the rookie an unspecified amount -- "more than a dollar but less than $10,000" -- and had him watch the first five innings from the bench.

But Puig made up for his tardiness, which he blamed on Miami traffic, in a big way.

Inserted in the sixth inning as part of a double switch, Puig belted the first pitch thrown to him by Dan Jennings for a go-ahead home run in the eighth, and the Dodgers held on for a 6-4 victory over the Marlins.

It was the first home run given up by Jennings all season, and it came at the worst possible time.

It was Puig's 12th home run. And, one night after going 0 for 5, it served notice that he isn't about to concede the Rookie of the Year race to Jose Fernandez lying down. Or watching from the dugout after being punished by his manager.

The pitching Tuesday was nowhere close to what it was one night earlier when Fernandez dazzled an electric crowd with another standout performance in his bid to win top rookie honors.

Marlins starter Jacob Turner walked a dangerous tightrope for three scoreless innings before it finally snapped on him in the fourth, as the Dodgers came up with four runs to take a 4-1 lead.

Throwing strikes proved a challenge for the 22-year-old right hander, who was often behind in counts, gave up 10 hits in only five innings and shot himself in the foot by walking Dodgers starter Chris Capuano with two outs in the fourth. Capuano is a .048 hitter who is almost impossible to walk, having done so only eight times in 414 career plate appearances.

But that didn't stop Turner from losing him on balls, and the Dodgers capitalized by scoring four runs -- all with two outs -- after that. Turner finished by throwing 45 strikes compared with 44 balls.

The Marlins recovered to tie the score and appeared poised to retake the lead in the seventh when Giancarlo Stanton led off the inning with his third hit of the game and advanced to second on a Logan Morrison single. But Ed Lucas wasn't able to get down a sacrifice bunt, ended up grounding into a double play, and Justin Ruggiano struck out to end the threat.

The Dodgers added another run in the ninth following a throwing error by Adeiny Hechavarria and a soft ground ball to third that Lucas was unable to glove cleanly.

Innings count

As Fernandez closes in on the 170-inning limit that was set for him when the season started, manager Mike Redmond said he and pitching coach Chuck Hernandez are looking into creative ways to squeeze as much mileage out of him as possible without going over the cap.

"Could there be a spot in there where maybe we skip a start to pitch him an extra week into September? That's a possibility," Redmond said. "We're trying to see how we can extend him as deep into September as we can."

Fernandez has pitched 145 2/3 innings so far, leaving him about 24 more innings shy of the cap, or about three or four more starts depending on how deep into games he goes in his upcoming starts.

"I'm not going to cut him out of a game because of the inning," Redmond said "We're going to let him pitch."

Redmond joked that he is almost dreading having the rambunctious Fernandez sitting with him on the bench the rest of the season after being shut down.

"He's going to drive everybody nuts, that's what he's going to do," Redmond said, laughing. "He's going to sit on the bench, and he's going to drive everybody crazy. I know we're all going to wish he had more innings."

Body language

Marlins reliever A.J. Ramos used Puig's emotions to his advantage when he struck out the Dodgers' young star on Monday.

Ramos said he could tell from the Marlins bullpen how angry and frustrated Puig became after Fernandez whiffed him in the fifth.

"You've got to watch their body language sometimes. It tells a lot," said Ramos, who took over for Fernandez in the seventh with the Marlins clinging to a one-run lead. "[Monday], he was really frustrated, so I figured he wanted to jump on something quick.

"If I threw him a fastball, he might have crushed it."

Ramos threw Puig three consecutive sliders. Puig swung at all three and struck out.

-- Scouting report: Eovaldi was roughed up by the Dodgers when he faced them last season for the first time after being traded by Los Angeles to the Marlins. Eovaldi lasted only three innings, giving up six runs on seven hits, including three home runs. He did not pitch against them earlier this season at Dodger Stadium.

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(c)2013 The Miami Herald

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