Puig, who signed for $42 million last summer as a relative unknown, dominated the Cactus League with a .526 batting average, a Bo Jackson-like frame and an explosive energy that thrilled fans and ruffled opponents.
But the Dodgers outfield is full with Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford. Besides, Puig has only 95 professional plate appearances after missing the entire 2011 season following a failed attempt to defect from Cuba.
Management believes he needs more seasoning, especially in the subtle parts of the game, and needs to play every day, which would have been almost impossible in the big leagues. Skip Schumaker and Jerry Hairston are the extra outfielders.
"I told him he had a great camp and he didn't do anything wrong," manager Don Mattingly said. "It was an organizational decision from the standpoint of what we think is best for him now and the long term.
"He came into camp and the guy wasn't even on the radar. We really didn't know what to expect. He put himself on the map, probably knocking on the door instead of a couple years away. We knew he was tooled up. We found out he was really smart, he learns quick. He needs a little work in certain areas, the details of the game.
"I look at Yasiel as a Ferrari -- got the motor, the body, the wheels. Just hasn't been painted yet and you don't want to leave it in the sun. We want a guy as ready as possible when he walks in the door at Dodger Stadium so he never has to go down again."
Mattingly said Puig didn't say anything, but "he didn't seem too happy about it."
In part, Gordon is one of the reasons Puig was sent down. The Dodgers did the opposite when Gordon was their best position prospect. They dealt away shortstop Rafael Furcal at the Trade Deadline in 2011 and gave the job to Gordon, who responded with a solid final two months of that season.
But he struggled on both sides of the ball in the first half of 2012, then suffered a torn thumb ligament on a head-first dive into third base just before the All-Star break, requiring surgery that cost him virtually the rest of the season.
"We felt he needs to be playing every day and continuing to develop," Mattingly said. "We felt like we rushed him a little bit. He had a good camp, great attitude, no issues. He's another guy we want to come up and be able to stay. We want him ready, polished, able to do the stuff we found out he wasn't ready for. You make a plan for a guy, an injury happens [to Hanley Ramirez], what's the best answer? We didn't feel Dee was the best answer for Hanley."
Gordon's injury last year led to the acquisition of Ramirez from Miami. Ramirez suffered a similar injury at the World Baseball Classic earlier this year, but instead of allowing Gordon to replace him, Luis Cruz was moved over from third base, with a trio of utility men -- Juan Uribe, Hairston and Nick Punto -- rotating at third base.