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Dodgers' Puig gets hot in chilly Minnesota

By By The Sports Xchange
Published On: May 02 2014 01:58:53 AM CDT
Updated On: May 02 2014 02:10:31 AM CDT
Yasiel Puig, May 2013, Target Field

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

MINNEAPOLIS -

Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig hails from Cuba but found himself at home in the chilly confines of Target Field.

Puig, who finished second in National League Rookie of the Year balloting last season after hitting .319 with 19 homers and 42 RBIs in only 104 games, has been unable to match those numbers over the first month of this season. When he arrived in the Twin Cities earlier this week, he was hitting .265. For much of the season, Puig has been around the .240 to .250 range.

But after a two-hit night Wednesday in a 6-4 win against the Twins, Puig followed up with his third career four-hit game in Game 1 of a split doubleheader Thursday. He also knocked in two runs in a 9-4 win in Game 1

Puig had two hits in Game 2 of the double header, and at one point, had reached base in nine consecutive at-bats.

"I think his whole game seems to be calming down," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "In all aspects, in terms of his base running, at the plate we are seeing him be more patient, staying within himself a lot more."

Perhaps it is a bit surprising that Puig has seemed to find himself in a place quite unlike anything he is used to. With a steady rain, wind and temperatures barely in the 40s all week, Puig has overcome any weather-related issues to have his best series of the young season.

"Nothing really surprises me with him," Mattingly said. "He's just getting better as a player. We've got guys from the Dominican, they're not exactly used to playing in this either. You do have to come with the mentality in this weather that you can't let it bother you. You have to get ready and just play."

Some confidence and a more patient approach certainly bodes well for Puig the rest of the season. With proven veterans like Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez and Matt Kemp hitting behind him in the order, teams will be forced to pitch to Puig all season. Mattingly says that's fine with him.

"The sky is the limit for Yasiel if he continues on this path," Mattingly said. "He changes everything, as far as how you pitch him and what you can do to him because he's going to force you to throw the ball over the plate."