Yasiel Puig starts Opening Day in No. 8 spot of batting order

ByDoug Padilla ESPN logo
Tuesday, April 4, 2017

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers remain believers in Yasiel Puig's full potential, yet the mercurial slugger started Monday's season opener in the No. 8 spot in the order..

Manager Dave Roberts admitted that Puig's inconsistencies this spring led to an Opening Day lineup against the San Diego Padres that was far different than what had been projected when the club's roster took shape.

Puig, playing right field, went 1-3 with a double and two walks in the Dodgers' 14-3 win over the Padres. He also struck out once.

Logan Forsythe had been acquired this past offseason to fill the leadoff void, but he took on a middle-of-the-order role Monday. Andrew Toles, who burst on the season unexpectedly last season, batted leadoff for his first Opening Day.

"I think that with Yasiel, we're looking for him to be consistent, and I think the at-bat quality needs to be consistent vs. right [-handed pitching] and vs. left," Roberts said pregame. "And I really didn't see that during the spring against right-handed pitching. So with [Toles] against a right-handed pitcher, I like the at-bat quality and I like the same with Logan."

Forsythe was in the No. 5 spot, behind left-handed hitting Adrian Gonzalezand in front of the lefty-swinging Joc Pederson. The Dodgers remain hopeful that Puig will prove worthy of that spot eventually. Puig also batted eighth during this past weekend's Freeway Series against the Los Angeles Angels.

Puig hit two home runs in one spring game, and hit three total, with seven RBIs, but he batted .232, with a .759 OPS, and generally looked rigid at the plate despite a weight-loss program this winter that was designed to give him overall body flexibility.

Puig talked this spring about wanting to reach his full potential as a tribute to productive veterans Albert Pujols and Robinson Cano, who had reached out to him when Puig was demoted to the minor leagues last August.

He has worked on being a better teammate, figuring out how to do things for team first instead of self, but his adjusted approach remains a work in progress.

Roberts said this winter and spring that if Puig is getting the bulk of the at-bats in right field this season, the Dodgers will greatly benefit since that would mean he is producing. But the club does have other options for his spot, including Andre Ethier (currently on the disabled list), Franklin Gutierrez, Scott Van Slyke and Trayce Thompson (currently in Triple-A).

"I hope Yasiel makes it tough for me to hit him down [in the lineup]," Roberts said, a few hours before the season opener. "I think if he does that, and he plays to what we all know he can and to what he expects out of himself, then it could change the construction of the lineup."

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