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Puig draws first outfield start, praise from Mattingly

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Posted on the clubhouse lineup card at Camelback Ranch on Wednesday morning was a sight Dodgers fans are looking forward to seeing many times in the future:

Starting outfielder Yasiel Puig.

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The club's No. 1 prospect, according to MLB.com, got the nod in center field on Wednesday and batted eighth, marking his second start of the spring and his first start in the outfield. (He was the DH on Sunday.)

Puig didn't disappoint in the Dodgers' 11-7 victory over the Cubs, lining a pair of singles and scoring three runs in a 2-for-3 day. His most impressive at-bat of the afternoon may have come in the third -- a rocket to the 410-foot sign in dead center field that the Cubs' Scott Hairston dropped for an error just in front of the wall.

Puig is 4-for-11 with a double and three strikeouts this spring. But a far more accurate assessment of his performance during Spring Training comes from manager Don Mattingly, who has had his eye on the 22-year-old since Day 1 of camp.

"The best word for me with Yasiel is 'raw,'" Mattingly said. "This guy is full speed. He is a beast. It is a body in motion. When this guy comes around the bases, it's a train coming. ... But it's raw, and it's full speed, and I like it. It's like a wild horse."

The Dodgers signed the Cuban prospect to a seven-year, $42 million deal last June. That contract came a week before MLB began limiting bonus money for international free agents.

Puig hit .354 with five homers in the Minors last year in time spent between the Arizona Rookie League and Class A Rancho Cucamonga in the California League. But he scuffled a bit in the Puerto Rican winter league, hitting just .232 with one homer and 19 strikeouts in 69 at-bats.

Now he's in his first big league camp with the club, and it's been all positives for Mattingly, though he said that's easy when you're starting a season healthy and full of energy. The real test, he said, will come as the summer grinds along.

As for how long it'll be for Puig's progression to the big leagues (MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo has his ETA at 2014), Mattingly was succinct in saying, "It's up to him."

"We'll see," Mattingly said. "The story hasn't been written yet. He didn't get to play a whole lot last year. He had some injuries and whatnot. This year hopefully will be a full season with a lot of at-bats and you get a better picture."

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