Since his introductory press conference last December, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts hasn’t escaped questions pertaining to Yasiel Puig.
Hamstring injuries limited the talented outfielder to a career-low 79 games last season, and offseason headlines only added to the perception of Puig being a distraction.
Last November he was involved in a fight with a bouncer outside a Miami bar, sparking a Major League Baseball investigation. Then in December, an ex-teammate called Puig the ‘worst person’ he’s seen in baseball.
However, Roberts arrived as Dodgers managers without any preconceived notions and looking to forge a strong bond with the 25-year-old Cuban native. The two were scheduled to scheduled to speak for the first time in mid-January, however a meeting was never held.
Roberts took blame for it, and said he would speak with Puig at Spring Training. The hurdle wound up being cleared on Saturday at the Dodgers fourth annual FanFest. “I actually just had a good sit down with [Puig],” Roberts said.
“It was refreshing for me to just get face-to-face with him, one-on-one and talk about our vision. For me, it’s more of, let’s wipe the slate clean and start it new.” Puig said he was excited to have spoken with Roberts. The skipper estimated the meeting was 15 minutes.
“The same core of players remain, but it’s a completely different coaching staff. We just want him to be himself. Let’s start fresh,” Roberts said. At worst, the rookie manager is receiving a slimmed down version of Puig.
He’s spent the offseason focused on shedding weight and doing leg exercises to strengthen his legs, particularly the hamstring area.