Dodgers News: Yasiel Puig Not Focused On Spot In Lineup, Appreciative Of Fans’ Support
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig enjoyed a resurgent 2017 season at the plate that saw him post career highs in home runs (28), RBI (74) and stolen bases (15). For most of the season, the 27-year-old found himself batting from the bottom third of the lineup.

That wasn’t for a lack of production, but rather to establish comfortability in the batter’s box. Now, with All-Star third baseman Justin Turner sidelined for the foreseeable future, Puig has received more opportunities from Dodgers manager Dave Roberts to hit third.

“I don’t think about that,” Puig answered when asked if his success at the bottom of the lineup last season is aiding his transition to the top.

“I want to be in the lineup every day and help my teammates win. Last season I was hitting in the eighth spot, now I’m hitting third. That’s no big deal to me. The only reason I want to be in the lineup is to play.”

Puig went hitless through the first three games of the Opening Series against the San Francisco Giants, but rebounded with three hits, including an RBI-double, in Sunday’s finale.

“You saw it tonight, his bat is huge for us as a team,” Cody Bellinger said about Puig. “When he’s feeling good, personally I don’t think there’s a better hitter in the lineup. Like I said, he’s a presence up there and when he’s feeling good it’s going be good for us.”

Puig was also involved in a near-baserunning mistake that resulted in the Dodgers putting their first run on the board. The sequence earned him some ribbing from Bellinger and Roberts.

As a group, the Dodgers scored 14 runs in the final two contests after being shutout in the opening two. “The team was sleeping a little, I think,” Puig joked. “Now we’re waking up. But, you don’t need to score a lot of runs to win the game.”

Puig’s high intensity on both sides of the ball has earned him a reputation as one of the most energetic players in all of baseball. He attributes his success to Dodgers fans and believes he performs better with loud crowds cheering him on.

“I feel good when I go to the plate and the fans are yelling my name,” Puig said. “It makes me so proud of myself, or things I need to do better. Things I need to do in the game to make fans proud. I want to say thank you.”

Another element to Puig’s game is his elite defensive skills. He was snubbed of a Gold Glove Award last season but isn’t prioritizing claiming one this year.

“I want to play every day and do the best I can in the field,” Puig stated. “I’m not focused on winning the Gold Glove this year. If they want to give it to me, then fine. If not, keep on giving it to Jason Heyward. That’s OK.”

Roberts, who plans to give Puig a day off during the series with the Arizona Diamondbacks/a>, is confident he can replicate the offensive success from last season.

“We talked about it earlier, I thought Yasiel is close as long as he stays with his plan, and I think the swing, mechanically he’s fine,” Roberts said. “And today he was really focused, it was nice. He squared a couple balls up and found a seeing-eye grounder his last at-bat.

“A lot of confidence right there going into Arizona for him, and again, I thought his work has been really good. When he’s into it, he’s focused and he’s playing with that fire, that energy, we feed off of it. Yeah, it is something that no one else really has that presence about him.”