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Yasiel Puig back in Dodgers' lineup, receives challenge from manager

MIAMI -- In the clubhouse after the Los Angeles Dodgers' 3-2 loss to the Marlins on Saturday, Yasiel Puig yelled out, in Spanish and to no one in particular, that he was "just a pinch hitter."

Puig, of course, is no such thing. He is the Dodgers' talented and sometimes sarcastic, sometimes arrogant and sometimes controversial right fielder. Because of a blister on his left hand, Puig sat out Friday and came in as a pinch hitter on Saturday.

He was back in the starting lineup on Sunday, but there are bigger questions: Just how good is the 24-year-old Cuban-born right fielder? And now that pitchers have adjusted to Puig, can the outfielder adjust back to the pitchers?

Understated Dodgers manager Don Mattingly -- the polar opposite of Puig in personality type -- issued a quiet challenge to his right fielder before Sunday's game.

In fact, Mattingly seemed to ask just as many questions as he answered while discussing Puig.

"It's really almost up to him," Mattingly said. "Is he going to make adjustments to pitching and how they are pitching him? Is he a guy who just goes up there reacting, or does he actually have a game plan?

"Usually, the guys who have a game plan are the ones who can change over time. If you are just reacting, then the way you are the first time we see you is probably what you are your whole career."

The Dodgers, of course, would love to have the same Puig who broke into baseball in June 2013 and hit .319 that season with 19 homers, 42 RBIs and a .925 OPS in 104 games.

Last season, he hit .296 with 16 homers, 69 RBIs and an .863 OPS. And entering Sunday, he was hitting .306 with three homers, 10 RBIs and an .871 OPS in 29 games.

"It's hard to categorize [Puig] -- he's still young," Mattingly said. "We saw him jump on the scene and make a huge splash, and it's been pretty normal after that. You see the talent level is on the ceiling, but you have to perform to that.

"I wouldn't characterize him as a home run hitter, but obviously he's a guy with power. He is capable of hitting the ball out all over [the park]."

Mattingly tried to keep the conversation general, pointing out that other Dodgers who have had success --Justin Turner, for example -- will have to adjust as pitchers change their patterns.

"Is the player going to get better by utilizing videotape?" Mattingly asked. "Pitchers are predictable, too. You can understand what they can do over time. But you won't understand it if you don't watch and study. Somebody can tell you, but if you don't pay attention ..."

When pressed about Puig in particular, Mattingly responded: "I think he is more reactive at this point. You saw periods of times last year when he took walks, and then there were times when he was chasing balls."

Puig went 0-for-2 with three walks in Sunday's game as the Dodgers beat the Marlins 2-0.

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