It didn’t take long for Dave Roberts to face his first Yasiel Puig question as Los Angeles Dodgers manager, as Roberts was asked for his opinion of the enigmatic outfielder during his introductory press conference last December.
“From the other side, he’s ultra-talented and a special player,” Roberts said at the time. “I’m looking forward to getting to know him and meeting him. I think this is gonna be a great opportunity to embrace him and I’m excited about it. He’s a tremendous baseball player.”
Puig was coming off a season in which multiple hamstring injuries limited him to a career-worst 79 games. He hit .255/.322/.436 with 12 doubles, 11 home runs and 38 RBIs. Puig finished the year with a .328 woBA, 111 wRC+ and 66 strikeouts to 26 walks in 311 plate appearances.
He was also the subject of a Major League Baseball investigation due to reportedly getting physical with his sister at a Miami bar, which led to a scuffle with a bouncer. Puig was formally cleared of any wrongdoing in mid-March.
Entering Saturday’s matchup with the San Francisco Giants, Puig had started all 11 games this season. He’s batting .366/.458/.561 with one double, two triples, one home run and five RBIs, building on the good habits he established during Spring Training.
In hiring Roberts, the general sense and hope was he would provide a breath of fresh air in the Dodgers clubhouse, and establish a positive relationship with Puig. Given how the 25 year old has opened the 2016 season, it’s natural to credit Roberts for some of the success.
Not according to the first-year manager, however. “I don’t think I’ve had much to do with it. Obviously, the player has to buy in, and Yasiel has been completely open,” Roberts said on Saturday. “He gets all the credit, he’s playing well.”
Roberts went on to credit his coaching staff for their work with Puig and the entire roster. “The whole mojo is really good,” Roberts said. Again specifically addressing Puig, Roberts shared some insight into the Dodgers’ approach.
“I think at the core, there’s so much good there. … You have to love on him a little bit, and we’ve done that. He’s been great, he’s been a complete joy for me.”