Puig gets closer to re­turn­ing

Dodgers out­fielder to start mi­nor league re­hab as­sign­ment with Ran­cho Cu­ca­monga.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Dylan Her­nan­dez

DEN­VER — The Dodgers lineup could soon be more dy­namic and their club­house louder.

Yasiel Puig is close to re­turn­ing.

Puig is sched­uled to start a mi­nor league re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion as­sign­ment Thurs­day with Class-A Ran­cho Cu­ca­monga. The All-Star right fielder could be back in the ma­jor league lineup by the end of next week, Man­ager Don Mat­tingly said be­fore the Dodgers lost to the Colorado Rock­ies, 7-6, Wed­nes­day at Coors Field.

Puig, who has been side­lined for more than five weeks be­cause of a strained left ham­string, won’t be the only po­ten­tial re­in­force­ment from Cuba who will start play­ing in mi­nor league

games Thurs­day.

Hec­tor Oliv­era, the 30year-old in­fielder who fi­nal­ized a $62.5-mil­lion con­tract last month, will make his pro­fes­sional de­but with dou­ble-A Tulsa. Oliv­era has been work­ing out in re­cent weeks at the Dodgers’ com­plex in Ari­zona.

An­drew Fried­man, the Dodgers pres­i­dent of base­ball op­er­a­tions, has said he ex­pects Oliv­era to reach the ma­jor leagues this sea­son. Oliv­era is also ex­pected to play with triple-A Ok­la­homa City.

The re­turn of Puig and ad­di­tion of Oliv­era will sig­nif­i­cantly al­ter the Dodgers lineup.

When Puig re­turns, he will re­claim his role as the ev­ery­day right fielder. An­dre Ethier, who has played the po­si­tion in Puig’s ab­sence, will move to left field.

Joc Ped­er­son will re­main in cen­ter field.

With Carl Craw­ford side­lined for at least four more weeks be­cause of a torn side mus­cle, the left-handed-hit­ting Ethier is ex­pected to start most of the games in left field. Alex Guer­rero, a righthanded hit­ter, will pre­sum­ably start there only on days in which the Dodgers face a left-handed pitcher.

Be­tween left field and third base, Guer­rero should con­tinue to be a fre­quent pres­ence in the lineup. Guer­rero be­gan Wed­nes­day bat­ting .296 with 10 home runs and 25 runs bat­ted in. The only Dodgers with more home runs are Ped­er­son and Adrian Gon­za­lez.

How­ever, some starts in left field could go to Scott Van Slyke when Van Slyke re­turns from the dis­abled list. Van Slyke, another righthanded hit­ter, was put on the DL Sun­day be­cause of back in­flam­ma­tion.

Guer­rero could also be af­fected by Oliv­era’s an­tic­i­pated pro­mo­tion, when­ever it hap­pens.

Oliv­era spent the ma­jor­ity of his ca­reer in his home coun­try as a sec­ond base­man.

Though Oliv­era’s longterm fu­ture with the Dodgers could be at sec­ond base — cur­rent starter Howie Ken­drick will be­come a free agent this off-sea­son — he is un­likely to dis­place Ken­drick as the starter this sea­son.

That makes Oliv­era most likely to play third base, a po­si­tion Guer­rero shares with util­ity man Justin Turner.

The Dodgers al­ready traded a third base­man in Juan Uribe, who was sent to the At­lanta Braves. Oliv­era could make Guer­rero or Turner ex­pend­able, though Guer­rero could draw lim­ited trade in­ter­est be­cause of a clause in his con­tract that al­lows him to be­come a free agent at the end of the sea­son if he is traded.

While Oliv­era will be in Tulsa on Thurs­day play­ing against the Mid­land Rock­Hounds, Puig will be in Lan­caster with the Dodgers’ Class-A af­fil­i­ate.

This will be the sec­ond re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion as­sign­ment for Puig, who landed on the DL on April 26.

The first started May 7 and ended May 8, when Puig was re­moved from a game af­ter strain­ing his ham­string again.

Puig has been work­ing out at the Dodgers’ Ari­zona fa­cil­ity for more than a week. Based on the re­ports he has re­ceived, Mat­tingly sounded op­ti­mistic Puig’s leg would hold up this time.

While play­ers of­ten be­gin re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion as­sign­ments as des­ig­nated hit­ters, Puig is ex­pected to start in right field in his first game.

“He’s do­ing re­ally well in Ari­zona,” Mat­tingly said. “He’s run­ning and ev­ery­thing. He’s been do­ing out­field drills.”

Mat­tingly said he was told by trainer Stan Conte that Puig is “do­ing more run­ning now than he’ll do in a game.”

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