With Yasiel Puig enduring another inconsistent season in 2016, the Los Angeles Dodgers attempted to trade their polarizing outfielder prior to the non-waiver deadline. Unable to do so, Los Angeles demoted Puig to Triple-A Oklahoma City.
It not only marked the first time Puig played for the organization’s Triple-A affiliate — he joined the Dodgers in 2013 from Double-A Chattanooga — but it also was the first demotion of his career.
“It was not good to experience going to Triple-A, but that was my fault,” Puig said Saturday from Dodger Stadium during the club’s annual FanFest event.
“Coming in late, not going to the meetings on time with my teammates and coaches, and that was the reason. And I am 100 percent [in agreement] with the decision when they sent me down. Everybody helped me a lot, and that was a reason I was back in September.”
Puig returned to a platoon role during the final month of the 2016 season, which was yet another first. At the time he vowed to have learned and matured from the brief stint in the Minors, and that translated to the field.
Appearing in 23 games (13 starts) last September and into October, Puig batted .281/.338/.561 with four doubles, four home runs and six RBI. His production helped offset the Dodgers’ season-long struggles against left-handed pitching.
Last week, the 26-year-old said he wanted to return to an everyday role, whether with the Dodgers or another club. Puig didn’t back from that stance, even stating a preference to remain in Los Angeles.
“I want to play baseball here. Whatever decision they want to take is fine with me,” he said. “I want to stay here. That is my job and I will be ready for everything. I want to stay here.”
Despite trade speculation prior to last season’s non-waiver deadline, rumors this winter involving Puig have been largely nonexistent. Instead, attention has fallen on the club once again asking Puig to shed weight.
By all accounts he took the mandate in stride and appears to have the same slimmed-down physique as last offseason. “I’m ready for Spring Training,” Puig said. “I’ve been working every day at Dodger Stadium with Kenley (Jansen), (Justin) Turner, (Joc) Pederson and a couple more guys.”
The Dodgers have neither anointed Puig an everyday starter or named him as part of a platoon. Though, manager Dave Roberts reiterated Puig logging 600-plus plate appearances this season would serve as an indication of success for Puig and the Dodgers.
Arguably the most notable aspect of Puig’s interview was he answered in English, without aid from the translator who was on hand. Typically, Puig would defer to a translator when speaking with media.
“I came here to play baseball, not speak English,” he said with a laugh. “That was what my buddy ‘Goribe’ (Juan Uribe) said every time.”