Yaisel Puig's spectacular start to his major league career has slowed down considerably in recent weeks.
It may have suffered its biggest speed bump Wednesday.After a closed-door meeting with team brass, Puig is expected to return to the Los Angeles Dodgers' lineup Friday night as they host the San Diego Padres.Manager Don Mattingly pulled Puig after four innings of Wednesday's 4-0 home win over the Chicago Cubs, replacing him with Skip Schumaker in right field. Puig didn't attempt to break up a first-inning double play with a slide at second and slammed his bat following a third-inning strikeout.Mattingly, who along with general manager Ned Colletti met with Puig following the game, declined to elaborate on the reasoning for his decision."I felt I was going to get a better effort out of Skip," Mattingly said.Puig, who was fined by Mattingly after arriving late for a game in Miami last week, is hitting .346 since debuting against scheduled starter Eric Stults (8-11, 3.72 ERA) in a 2-1 home win over San Diego on June 3. He was 2 for 4 in his debut, including 2 for 3 off Stults, but is batting .231 with an 0-for-10 mark with runners in scoring position over his last 18 contests."I wasn't prepared well for each pitch. It was a good decision," Puig said through a translator."I wanted to finish the game, but I agreed with the explanation. The meeting went well. We talked about what every player needs to do to prepare for every pitch."Puig-related dramatics notwithstanding, the first-place Dodgers (78-55) keep rolling, with their 21 wins in August tying a Los Angeles record for most victories in a calendar month. Wednesday's game also marked their 19th shutout, their most since recording the same number in 1989.Responsible for one of those shutouts is scheduled starter Hyun-Jin Ryu (12-5, 3.08), who has yet to face the Padres (60-73). He comes off consecutive losses for the first time after allowing four runs in five innings of a 4-2 loss to Boston on Saturday.All the runs came in the first inning. Opponents are hitting .295 off the left-hander in the first frame compared to .249 in all other innings."I don't think it's the issue of warming up," Ryu said through a translator. "It seems as the game goes on my body seems to relax more."Ryu will try to slow down Will Venable, who is batting .396 in his 26 games since July 30. He has eight homers, eight doubles and his .755 slugging percentage in that span leads the majors.Venable drove in three runs and hit his 20th homer in Wednesday's 5-1 win at Arizona, becoming San Diego's first outfielder with at least 20 home runs since Mike Cameron in 2007.Stults is 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in three starts versus Los Angeles this year while allowing batters to hit .311. The left-hander is winless since the All-Star break, going 0-4 with a 4.68 ERA in his last seven outings.Carl Crawford, who is 2 for 16 in his last four games, is 5 for 7 off Stults.Venable is 2 for 25 over his last 10 games against the Dodgers but owns a .911 on-base plus slugging versus lefties this year.San Diego has won eight of the last 11 meetings in Los Angeles.