Puig polishes game, goes on tear for Dodgers

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 22, 2014 at 3:33 am •  Published: May 22, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) — Yasiel Puig knew the question was coming.

What about that rocket throw to third base Tuesday night? The one you made when the inning was already over?

Before it was even translated into Spanish for him, the Los Angeles Dodgers slugger broke into the sheepish grin of a forgetful schoolboy who keeps getting sent to the principal's office for the same silly offense.

And he was ready with a playful response: Blame it on teammate Juan Uribe.

See, only a few days before, Uribe and third base coach Lorenzo Bundy, who doubles as a translator for Puig, were marveling out loud about how the young right fielder hadn't goofed in more than a week.

Turns out, they jinxed him! At least that's the way Puig tells it.

"So when he made the mistake last night," Bundy said Wednesday, "Juan came off the field, he was looking for me and he goes, 'Lorenzo, he's back! He's back!'"

The Dodgers are accustomed to those sort of untamed miscues from Puig — over-exuberant baserunning, wild throws from the outfield, huge hacks at the plate.

They laughed off his latest gaffe against the New York Mets because it was harmless: Puig caught a routine fly for the third out and immediately whipped a laser beam across the diamond to hold an opposing runner who was only headed back to the bench.

Puig got razzed in the dugout, for sure. He may have forgotten how many outs there were, but he's been right on point at the plate.

The second-year star from Cuba has hit safely in 18 of his last 19 games, batting .408 with seven homers and 23 RBIs during that stretch. He's all over the National League leaderboard, ranking second in RBIs (37) and slugging percentage (.610), fourth in on-base percentage (.427) and fifth in home runs (10).

Puig credits Uribe and fellow teammate Adrian Gonzalez, among others, with helping him polish his game. He's laying off bad pitches and having more disciplined at-bats. He's hitting the cutoff man and eliminating fundamental mistakes on the bases.

"I just think he's making adjustments," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "Really his whole game has just matured, so I think that maturity has really been the key for him."

All without losing the unique effervescence that's already made him a fan favorite around the majors.

"Guys that love to play, you can just see it. And I think that's what people love about Yasiel," Mattingly said. "You get that Little League quality that's just lovin' playing baseball. And I think that's what people really like seeing. A guy that plays hard with that energy, and then the talent."

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