PHOENIX -- To Don Mattingly, $42 million Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig has gone from "fun to watch" to "surprising."
Whether that takes Puig onto the Opening Day roster if left fielder Carl Crawford goes on the disabled list, Mattingly still isn't saying.
"He can play, that's for sure, but that's not one of the things I'm willing to make a decision on or talk about," Mattingly said. "It's still too early."
OK, but the Dodgers' top prospect is hitting .452 after going 2-for-2 in Monday's 3-2 loss to the Brewers. He's not pull happy, he's learning to run the bases and trying to contain his aggressiveness on defense.
"He's surprised me," Mattingly said. "He struggled in Puerto Rico [Winter League], didn't play a lot of games last year [after signing]. I was excited to see him once he got some at-bats. The guy's going to be exciting on this level. He's smart, makes adjustments. He needs to play. He's rough, but he's a wild horse. He plays wild, but he's fun to watch.
"The thing I like about Puig is he doesn't swing and miss for a power guy. You don't see him miss very often. How many times have you seen him miss balls in the strike zone?"
Dodgers like progress Ryu shows in latest start
PHOENIX -- If Hyun-Jin Ryu didn't initially know what he was getting himself into by signing with the Dodgers and leaving Korea, he's been a quick study lately, pretty much ever since manager Don Mattingly said that Ryu didn't have a starting spot guaranteed.
Ryu followed that announcement with five strikeouts in three innings last week and a performance on Monday the club liked even better, stats notwithstanding (4 2/3 innings, three earned runs), in a game televised live back to Korea at 5 a.m.
Making the sub start for Zack Greinke, who was scratched with inflammation in his elbow, Ryu allowed a three-run fourth inning keyed by Rickie Weeks' triple in the Dodgers' 3-2 loss to the Brewers. But manager Don Mattingly and catcher A.J. Ellis both rated this Ryu's best outing yet.
"It was good, and A.J. said he held his stuff, and that's what I like to hear," Mattingly said. "He was still sharp and crisp. Didn't run out of gas. You can tell he knows what he's doing. He was yo-yoing, adding and subtracting."
Ryu said he is getting a better feel for his breaking pitches, his overall command is improving and his fastball is stronger as he adds innings. Ryu appeared to be behind his teammates in conditioning and arm strength when camp opened, but he now said he's on pace to be pitching deep into games when the season starts.
And he said he has "no doubts" that he will succeed in the Major Leagues.
Said Weeks: "He looked pretty good. There were times I thought he could be pretty tough when a guy gets on base. He tries to mix up his motions; he was slide-stepping a couple of times, picking it up and going slow. I could tell he was pretty well-versed at that."
Mattingly said it's harder to compare Ryu to the other Dodgers starters because Ryu won't throw bullpen sessions between starts, so the staff sees less of Ryu on the mound.
"He was outstanding today, the sharpest he's been, better than last week," Ellis said. "This was much cleaner. He used all his pitches, the breaking ball was good and he had the changeup going. It was very encouraging."
Ellis qualified his comments with a reminder that this Brewers lineup didn't include Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez, Corey Hart or Jonathan Lucroy.
"We'll see what happens with an 'A' lineup," he said. "For Ryu, it's all about execution and concentration. I keep telling him that and I'm not sure he wants to hear it because he doesn't say anything. But if he does that, I'll match his stuff up with a lot of guys."
The game also marked Ryu's return to a batter's box for the first time in eight years, he said. He took three strikes that he said were low pitches in his first at- bat, but dropped down a nice sacrifice bunt in his other plate appearance that contributed to a two-run fourth inning.
Dodgers cut three pitchers from spring camp
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Dodgers moved three pitchers out of camp Monday, optioning Matt Magill and Steven Ames and reassigning non-roster invitee Matt Palmer.
Palmer is injured and will undergo arthroscopic surgery Tuesday on his left knee, which locked up after playing catch Saturday.
Palmer, who turns 34 later this month, had similar surgery on his right knee in 2010, but said he never had a problem with the left one and saw no sign that a problem was coming.
"Out of nowhere," he said. "I do believe this is real minor and I'll be back in three to six weeks. God has a reason for everything. I've just got to fight through it."
Cruz contrite after involvement in brawl
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Adrian Gonzalez and Luis Cruz returned to the Dodgers on Monday from their World Baseball Classic adventure with Team Mexico. Cruz expressed contrition for his ordering of a beaning against Canada that triggered Saturday's brawl.
"I lost it," Cruz said repeatedly. "I just feel bad because I lost it, and that's not the way I play."
Otherwise, Cruz would not elaborate on the reasons he motioned to Mexican pitcher Arnold Leon to hit batter Rene Tosoni with a pitch, which he did on the third try, triggering the melee.
That came one batter after catcher Chris Robinson, with a six-run lead, bunted toward Cruz at third base for a single, a breach of baseball etiquette with a large lead, even though Classic rules contain a tiebreaker based on run differential.
No suspensions were handed out, although Cruz still could be fined for his actions.
"I'm just glad to be back in camp so I can work on everything," said Cruz, a career Minor Leaguer who broke through in the second half of 2012 to be the incumbent third baseman to start this season. "The main thing is to be ready for Opening Day and help myself be a better player."
Meanwhile, Team Mexico teammate Gonzalez confirmed that Canada coach Larry Walker teamed with Gonzalez during the bench-clearing scrum to prevent Gonzalez from getting involved.
"I was just making sure nobody got any cheap shots in," said Gonzalez. "He had me most of the time. If I was a coach in his situation, I'd probably do the same thing."
Billingsley feels good enough for Minor League start
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Chad Billingsley said mild groin tightness won't stop him from making a Minor League start Wednesday, when the rest of the Dodgers have a day off.
Billingsley had the right leg wrapped for his Sunday bullpen session and manager Don Mattingly said it is nothing major. Billingsley has a history of groin tightness in previous Spring Trainings.
The groin issue that hampered Javy Guerra in his one inning of a Minor League game Sunday, however, will "slow him down a bit, that's for sure," Mattingly said. Guerra, in his return from a week off because of World Baseball Classic issues, has downplayed the injury, which he didn't reveal until after his Sunday outing.
"He's telling me he feels good," said Mattingly. "We're going to be cautious. I don't think it will be for an extended time, but we'll be cautious for a day."
Carl Crawford continued to take batting practice with the team and said his surgically repaired elbow continues to feel good. Crawford still hasn't resumed throwing since being shut down nearly two weeks ago.
Chris Withrow, out all spring with lower back issues, is getting close to being ready for game action, having thrown several times in the bullpen. Scott Elbert continues his throwing program after two elbow operations.
Relievers Brandon League, Kenley Jansen and J.P. Howell will throw two innings each in a Minor League game on Tuesday.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.