PHOENIX — Count Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti among those who have been impressed with outfielder Yasiel Puig.
“He’s been very exciting,” Colletti said of Puig, a Cuban defector who entered Sunday hitting .389 in 18 spring training at-bats.
Manager Don Mattingly has another word to describe Puig: “Raw,” said the skipper, who has tried to tramp down expectations for the precocious 22-year-old.
The Dodgers signed Puig to a seven-year, $42-million contract — a record for a Cuban amateur — last summer despite the fact he hadn’t played in a game in more than a year. He wound up appearing in 23 minor league games, batting .354 with five home runs and eight stolen bases. But he hit just .232 with more strikeouts (19) than hits (16) in 20 winter games in Puerto Rico.
Despite the obvious talent, Colletti hinted that Puig was a long shot to make the team this spring, saying he needs playing time and at-bats, two things he isn’t likely to get much of with the big-league team. But he’s enjoyed watching Puig play just the same.
“Between the day we signed him and the opening of spring training, what I was most interested in is what he was going to look like here,” Colletti said. “You’ve got to like how he plays. He plays all-out, all the time. He’s got a plus arm, plus speed, plus power. A pretty good approach at the plate right now.
“As the spring goes on, as players who are going to make their big-league pitching staffs and veterans that are going to continue to pitch for big-league pitching staffs, as they get more refined and as they start working on more than just building up arm strength, it will be another chapter to see.