Considering their rash of injuries in the outfield, the Los Angeles Dodgers may shudder to think where they would be without Yasiel Puig. That’s a far cry from just last August, when Puig was demoted to Triple-A Oklahoma City after failed attempts to trade him.
For better worse, Puig has been a lightning rod since making his MLB debut in June of 2013. He helped spark the Dodgers on a historic 42-8 stretch that summer, which is a mark that was bested by the 2017 Dodgers, with Puig factoring into their winning 43 of 50 games.
The dynamic right fielder returned from Oklahoma City last season without a starting job but vowing to be an improved player and teammate. He went into Spring Training looking to take hold of an everyday role.
Puig’s play and demeanor have drawn praise from his teammates, coaches, manager Dave Roberts and the Dodgers front office. The 26-year-old became one of the game’s best No. 8 hitters this season, all the while continuing to play Gold-Glove caliber defense in right field.
During a recent interview that aired on FOX Sports 1, Puig credited and thanked Adrian Gonzalez for his maturation and improved play:
“I have to thank him for everything he has done all of these years. I know it’s hard for him to be next to me and guide me when maybe I haven’t always been paying attention, but he says I’m getting better. I’ve been playing better baseball and learning more because of him. I have to keep on improving every day for him and my teammates.”
Gonzalez has long been a mentor of sorts for Puig, who previously thanked him in similar fashion in April. Their time on the field together this season has been limited due to disc issues twice forcing Gonzalez to the disabled list.
In addition to the veteran first baseman forgoing a strong bond with Puig, so too has Roberts and Dodgers hitting coach Turner Ward. Puig’s relationship with Ward has grown to include giving him a bear hug and kiss on the cheek after hitting a home run.
Puig and Roberts share a trusting connection and understanding, which was not believed to be the case with former Dodgers manager Don Mattingly.