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Stretching the Field: Dodgers' Puig is no sure thing

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Updated: 6/07/2013 12:36 pm

(Sports Network) - Here's a warning for all Los Angeles Dodgers fans: Don't get caught up in the Yasiel Puig hype.

Yes, the young Cuban is taking Hollywood by storm and it would be no surprise if he already has his name etched on the Boulevard's Walk of Fame.

But let's not get carried away.

Puig was discovered by longtime scout Mike Brito, the same man who got former Dodgers great Fernando Valenzuela on track to stardom.

"Puig is the 32nd player I signed to make it to the big leagues in my 34 years in the organization," Brito told the Dodgers' website earlier this week. "It's a great feeling."

Brito hopes Puig follows the same path as Valenzuela, but should know that could be asking too much. The Dodgers are in desperate need of some life and Puig could be the man with the defibrillator.

This week, Puig has resuscitated a Dodgers ballclub that is dead last in the NL West standings after coming into the season with great expectations and a payroll that's higher than Chris Perez.

Loaded with a rocket arm in the outfield and a physique similar to an NFL defensive back, Puig was promoted from Double-A Chattanooga and led the Southern League in hitting and slugging. He has continued to see the ball well at the major league level and is 7-for-16 (.438) with three home runs, nine RBI and a 1.063 slugging percentage in only four games.

The legend continued in Thursday's 5-0 win over the Atlanta Braves when the 6- foot-3, 215-pound Puig cracked a grand slam. In just his second game on Tuesday, Puig homered twice and drove in five runs, becoming the second player in major league history with a two-homer, five-RBI performance within the first two games of his career. Dino Restelli turned the trick in 1949 with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Los Angeles manager Don Mattingly, whose job could be saved by Puig's emergence, is happy to have the rookie on board.

"He plays with such joy and that's really what we love," Mattingly said. "He's definitely brought some energy, but you don't just bring energy unless you go produce and I think that's what we've seen. You're not going to spark anybody if you go out and go 0-for-4, but he's not doing that. By producing, he creates energy."

The Dodgers are 3-1 since summoning Puig from the minors. Whether the rest of the clubhouse becomes infected by Puig's energy is unknown. Adrian Gonzalez has been playing well all season and the same can't be said for Andre Ethier or Matt Kemp. Kemp is on the disabled list with the likes of Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett, and Hanley Ramirez was just activated off the DL.

It will be interesting to see if the Dodgers can jell around Puig when all the pieces are back and healthy. And that's where doubt starts to settle in.

Not to be a wet blanket, but there are plenty of prospects who flamed out after their bandwagon caught fire. Just ask Mark Prior, Ben Davis, Todd Van Poppel, Ben McDonald, Ruben Rivera, Ben Grieve or Gregg Jefferies.

There are several others and that's why fans should not fall head over heels with Puig just yet. Much like unknown pitchers who take the mound by storm until opposing teams watch video and learn more of his tendencies, the same goes with hitters, and Puig is having his moment right now. Whether it lasts into the heat of the summer is uncertain.

Dodgers legendary announcer Vin Scully is a believer and proved it Thursday after Puig went opposite field for his first career grand slam.

"I have learned over the years that there comes a rare and precious moment where there is absolutely nothing better than silence. Nothing better to be absolutely speechless to sum up a situation. And that was the moment. Holy mackerel."

How many more moments will Puig provide? We'll just have to wait and see.

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