Yasiel Puig made an early exit from the Dodgers’ second of two games in Australia with an apparent back injury. The situation did not sit well with Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, who told Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com that Puig “grabs something every time he takes a swing and misses.”
But some positive news came down the pike on Tuesday as the Dodgers settled back into camp.
As first reported by beat writer Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register, an MRI showed no major damage — only inflammation — in Puig’s back. He’s considered day-to-day for now and should be ready for the Dodgers’ March 30 game in San Diego.
Puig went 3-for-10 with a double and two RBI in that two-game season-opening series against the Diamondbacks at the Sydney Cricket Ground. The 23-year-old Cuban outfielder batted .319/.391/.534 with 19 home runs and 11 stolen bases in his first 104 major league games last season.
Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.
Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.
Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.
What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.
That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.