LOS ANGELES (AP) - Seeking an offensive spark for a team mired in last place and dogged by injuries, the Los Angeles Dodgers are turning to prized prospect Yasiel Puig.
The Cuban defector was called up on Monday from Double-A Chattanooga, where he hit .313 with eight homers, 37 RBIs and 13 steals in 40 games. His batting average and a .599 slugging percentage led the Southern League.
“It’s exciting,” manager Don Mattingly said. “He has a chance to give you some energy.”
The 22-year-old outfielder batted leadoff, singling to center field in his major league debut. He wasn’t on base long, with Nick Punto grounding into a double play.
Puig played right field, with Andre Ethier moving to center in place of injured Matt Kemp, who is on the disabled list with a strained hamstring. Left fielder Carl Crawford went on the DL on Monday with a strained hamstring.
Puig takes the roster spot of right-hander Matt Magill, who was returned to the minors following a spot start on Sunday. Los Angeles also promoted Stephen Fife from Triple-A Albuquerque, and he started Monday night against San Diego in place of Chris Capuano.
Puig signed a $42 million, seven-year contract with the Dodgers last June. He showed signs of living up to the hype in spring training, hitting .517 with three homers and 11 RBIs in 27 games before he was sent to the minors.
With Crawford, Kemp and Ethier starting, there wasn’t going to be playing time for Puig. Now with two-thirds of the outfield hurt, that’s no longer a problem.
“We all got a chance to see what he could do in spring training. If it can be anything like that it could be fun to watch,” Mattingly said.
“We’re going to have a guy that possibly makes some mistakes. If he does, hopefully he doesn’t make the same mistake twice.”
“He does so many things,” the manager said, citing Puig’s “raw speed, power, energy.”
“He’s very talented. He’s got a lot of tools,” San Diego Padres manager Bud Black said before Monday night’s game. “He’s got some power, he’s got some speed, he has a good throwing arm. It looks like he can hit.”