Don Mattingly‘s pregame media session today was, as you might have guessed, ENTIRELY centered around Yasiel Puig. I’ll keep this simple and just give you the bullet points:
First, Puig did arrive at the ballpark roughly 45 minutes late, for which Mattingly fined him an undisclosed amount. These in-house fines typically are negligible amounts, at least as they relate to the salaries of Major League Baseball players. My guess is it’s somewhere between $500 and $1,500, because I know back when I started covering baseball a bajillion years ago, it was always $500. The rule for road games is you have to be at the ballpark by the time the second bus arrives at the from the team hotel. So if you’re not staying at the hotel — Puig has a home here and is staying there — you are required to beat the bus.
Puig’s excuse was that he got caught in traffic, which is definitely conceivable in South Florida, but Mattingly then apparently asked him what time he left his house.
“He let late enough to make it too close,” Mattingly said. “Trust me, he isn’t the first guy who has been here after the last bus. And it has happened (with other guys) more than two or three times.”
Second, just to clarify, Mattingly made the decision to sit Puig tonight way before Puig arrived late. Remember, Puig is hitless in his past 11 at-bats and has five hits in his past 30 ABs. He’s struggling right now.
“(Sitting Puig) was the easy part,” Mattingly said. “That was simply baseball. Yasiel has been struggling. Actually, the whole heart of our lineup has been struggling. This just seemed like the right time. This is just the lineup I feel gives us our best chance to win tonight. In a sense, I need to pay closer attention to when he needs a day off. It’s so so easy to keep putting him in the lineup because he always has so much energy, but everybody needs a day off now and then.”
The last time Puig didn’t start was Aug. 4 in Chicago, and he didn’t play at all in that game.
Finally, Mattingly said the closed-door meeting he had with Puig was a chance to discuss some of the other issues with the rookie outfielder, presumably his repeated failure to hit a cutoff man and his baserunning gaffes. He also addressed Puig’s outburst at plate umpire John Hirschbeck during last night’s game, as well as Hirschbeck’s reaction to it, about which Mattingly spoke directly with Hirschbeck an inning after it happened.
Mattingly blamed some of Puig’s maturity issues on being young, inexperienced and even somewhat new to baseball in the U.S.
“That (with Hirschbeck last night) was just emotion,” Mattingly said. “That’s just the way he is going to play, and I don’t want to take that emotion from him. I like his energy and his emotion. Those are great traits. I was just trying to protect him from the umpire, and we do the same thing with other guys, too.
“Honestly, it’s a little bit of a learning process with the umpires, too. (Umpire) Rob Drake reacted the same way in Philadelphia, the same way. When a guy looks back (at the umpire) after a call, they take offense to that.”
But Mattingly also said that even if umpires do adjust to Puig, Puig needs to change, as well.
“Part of this is helping Yasiel mature,” Mattingly said. “You really don’t want the umpires to see that, because they talk, and suddenly (Puig) doesn’t get any calls that are close. He needs to learn the umpires’ language, too. There is a way you talk to those guys and a way you act around those guys.
“Part of this is just helping him mature, and I don’t know if we can do that overnight.”
Mattingly also said Puig will return to the starting lineup on Wednesday night.
Puig didn’t speak to reporters before the game but is expected to do so after the game.