The 2017 season has been nothing short of a redemption year for Yasiel Puig. He reported to Spring Training hoping to reclaim the starter’s job that was lost last season after a demotion to Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Puig has not only cemented himself in right field, he’s emerged as a key contributor in a lineup led by Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager and Justin Turner, among others. That’s all come with Puig adjusting to a new role in the bottom of Dodgers manager Dave Roberts’ batting order.
The polarizing Cuban native has hardly caused a stir in the clubhouse this season. No longer are there whispers or criticism about work ethic.
Teammates Kenley Jansen and Chase Utley highlighted and praised Puig for an improvement in his demeanor, via Bill Plunkett of the Southern California News Group:
“He’s changed dramatically, I’m not going to lie to you,” Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen said.
“He’s maturing,” Dodgers veteran Chase Utley said. “I think he’s seeing the bigger picture.”
Jansen further elaborated on his opinion, even deflecting blame from Puig for his previous transgressions:
“It was like 24 islands then,” said Jansen, one of only two players on the Dodgers’ current active roster who was around then (Hyun-Jin Ryu is the other). “He saw how everyone acted and figured, ‘Well, I’m going to act that way too.’ How can you blame him?”
The 26-year-old is batting .258/.332/.479 with 13 doubles and 54 RBI. Puig set a career high by hitting his 20th home run in the series opener against the New York Mets, then extended it Saturday with a second homer in as many games.
Roberts has raved about Puig throughout the season, and recently said a trusting relationship he’s developed with hitting coach Turner Ward has been instrumental to success. While it once seemed Puig’s time with the Dodgers was running short, there now isn’t any question as to his value and impact.