After an electrifying debut in the Majors in June of 2013, Yasiel Puig has had a tendency to make headlines for his antics both on and off the field. His lack of better judgement had been attributed to his age, adaptation to a new country, and new-found wealth and fame.
During the offseason, Puig stayed out of the newspapers and spotlight, and Los Angeles Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly took notice of the maturity displayed by the young All-Star. In an interview with Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, the skipper shares what he has observed from Puig and the new influences around him:
A lot of the articles and stuff that we’ve been able to read about Yasiel during the offseason, he talked about that, more professional, being a better teammate, things like that. I think that the guys we have in that clubhouse are good for him, as far as Howie Kendrick, Jimmy Rollins, Joel Peralta, Gonzo as always, and Uribe as always. I think it’s just a part of his maturity as a player. Last year was his full first season in the major leagues, played a lot of games, and is still very young. So the maturity that we look is for him to get a little better every year.”
Since joining the Dodgers, Puig has been taken under the wings of Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez and Juan Uribe, among others. While Gonzalez and Uribe return in 2015, Ramirez has moved on to Boston. However, as Mattingly notes, newcomers Howie Kendrick, Joel Peralta and Jimmy Rollins bring plenty of veteran leadership.
Rollins, the 2007 National League MVP and a World-Series champion, sought out Puig in the Dodgers’ clubhouse at Camelback Ranch and it resulted in a two-hour conversation during a time when the veteran shortstop was still getting to know his new teammates.
It’s easy to forget Puig turned 24 years old in December and only has a season and a half in the Majors under his belt. There’s certainly not a question of his talent and if Spring Training is any indication, Puig has turned the corner when it comes to behind-the-scenes work and preparation.
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