Yasiel Puig could hit leadoff for the Dodgers this season

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According to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly indicated over the weekend that Yasiel Puig could serve as the club’s leadoff hitter this season.

The plan calls for Carl Crawford, who hit leadoff in 86 games last season, to slide down to the No. 2 spot in the order. Mattingly believes that the change will provide better righty-lefty balance in the lineup. In this scenario, Puig and Crawford would be followed by the right-handed hitting Hanley Ramirez and the left-handed hitting Adrian Gonzalez.

Puig hit .319/.391/.534 in 104 games as a rookie last season while making the majority of his starts (51) out of the No. 2 spot. The 23-year-old also made 27 starts out of the leadoff spot, 17 out of the cleanup spot, and one out of the fifth spot in the order.

Puig was a spark plug for the Dodgers last year and finished with a higher walk rate (8.8 percent) than the league average, but he was just 11-for-19 (59 percent) in stolen base attempts. The Dodgers will have to hope that he gets better picking his spots in 2014.

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with left ankle injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.