GLENDALE, Ariz. — There are no accidents. For example, when you walk into the Dodgers’ clubhouse here at Camelback Ranch, you note that, high on the wall above a row of lockers is a quote from a Dodgers legend:
“If you rush in and out of the clubhouse, you rush in and out of baseball.” — Pee Wee Reese
Directly beneath that sign is the locker of one Yasiel Puig, himself known for rushing into the clubhouse with little or no time to spare on occasion. Coincidence? I think not.
Also not a coincidence: veteran Adrian Gonzalez’s locker directly next to Puig’s, despite the fact that all of the other big-time veterans — Juan Uribe, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier — are around the corner from them. Between the Reese quote and the veteran presence, it’s almost as if the Dodgers are making sure that their young superstar is especially well-mentored.
To be fair to Mr. Puig, he was in the clubhouse bright and early today, sitting in front of his locker next to young Alex Guerrero, each having finished a workout already, and each dutifully answering the questions of the Spanish-speaking media. This despite the fact that he’s not in today’s lineup and, if he wanted to, could go hang out in the trainer’s room and be anti-social. We’ve heard tell that Puig wants to make a point to be less of a distraction this year. To just be one guy on the team and carry himself like a quiet professional. I suppose this is as good a start as any.
People who watch him every day are noticing too.
We’ve had two years to watch Yasiel Puig unleash his amazing physical gifts and baseball skills on Major League Baseball. If the appearances and talk around Camelback Ranch about Puig sharpening his focus and putting just as much mental effort into his game as physical effort are accurate, we could see something pretty damn special from the Dodgers right fielder this coming season.
The Braves clinched a postseason berth with Saturday’s 10-1 win over the Nationals. Now, the only question is whether they’ll get there with an NL East division title or via one of two wild card spots currently up for grabs.
Granted, things are looking pretty good on the division title front. After losing their second straight game to the Braves, the Nationals sit 10.5 games back of first place in the NL East, and every other division rival is at least 15 games out. The Braves, meanwhile, carry a magic number of four; should they clinch, it’ll be their 19th franchise title and 14th since they migrated to the East division in 1994.
They certainly looked like postseason contenders on Saturday. Mike Foltynewicz led the charge with six innings of one-run, five-strikeout ball, limiting the Nationals to four hits while rookie right-hander Austin Voth kept the Braves scoreless through 5 2/3 frames. Things started to tip in Atlanta’s favor in the sixth inning: Nick Markakis put the team on the board with an RBI single, and a four-run breakout in the seventh helped cement a sizable lead. Over the last three innings, the Braves found opportunity after opportunity against the Nationals’ bullpen, capitalizing on walks, throwing errors, and productive outs as they climbed toward a double-digit finish.
The win didn’t come without some sacrifice, however. The Braves lost Charlie Culberson to a facial injury after he was struck by a Fernando Rodney fastball in the seventh inning, and they’ll likely be without him for the remainder of the regular season — pending a formal diagnosis, of course. Culberson’s loss isn’t the only one the club is feeling right now, either, as Johan Camargo ended his season with a hairline fracture in his right shin and Freddie Freeman is playing through a minor bout of elbow soreness after making an early exit from Friday’s 5-0 shutout.