In a move that only came as a surprise given their public comments over recent days, the Los Angeles Dodgers recalled Yasiel Puig ahead of Friday’s game with the San Diego Padres. Puig started in right field and hit fifth, going 2-for-4 with a pair of singles in a 4-2 loss.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said a handful of players were asked for their opinion prior to Puig being added to the expanded roster. They welcomed the return of their teammate, but also delivered a clear message to the polarizing outfielder.
“I was talked to by my teammates and they explained what they need from me. That’s really what I was looking for, was to talk with teammates, talk with everyone, and having that understanding of what’s needed from me to succeed on this team,” Puig said through an interpreter. “Now I’m going to get to work and hopefully you’ll see the success of 2013.”
Roberts spoke with Puig by phone on Thursday, and in person on Friday. The rookie manager added he was pleased to see players take a proactive approach with Puig.
“I love it. As a coach or manager you can have some influence, but there’s no more influence than a teammate. You always want to have that respect of your peers. That’s something they did on their own,” Roberts said.
“It’s one of those things where there’s a little awkwardness, so I think they wanted to reopen lines of communication and put out expectations for them, for Yasiel, and welcome him back. It was initiated by a certain group of guys and it was well-received.”
In asking players for their stance on Puig’s return, it opened the opportunity for them to say it wasn’t something they welcomed. “If they said they didn’t want him, I would’ve been surprised,” Roberts said.
“What’s going in that clubhouse is a lot of good things. I think they know the character of Yasiel and what he can bring to help us win baseball games, and that’s the ultimate goal.”
Although Puig’s off-the-field demeanor is what led to his demotion, Roberts pointed to his handling of the decision as proof of maturity. “We’re all very hopeful, he was humbled to go down to Triple-A,” Roberts said.
“Fairly or unfairly, there’s obviously a lot of attention on Yasiel, good or bad. To swallow your pride and take care of business, look at yourself in the mirror and say, ‘I have to be better,’ that’s tough to do. For him to do that says a lot about his character.”