The Los Angeles Dodgers start their 2014 season in just three days in Sydney, Australia against the Arizona Diamondbacks. While the 2013 season ended on a sour note, the team has a lot to be proud of from starting 30-42 to going on a 42-8 run and coming just two games away from a World Series appearance.
A lot of the turnaround has been credited to Yasiel Puig, who was promoted to the big leagues on June 3 and energized an underachieving group. The 23-year-old outfielder hit .319 with 19 home runs and finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting behind Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins. Talking to Andy Gray of SI.com, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez placed high expectations on the second-year player:
I think he’s understanding that everything that has to do with making adjustments, accepting failure and understanding you’re not just going to have months when you hit .500 – that’s very rare in this league. He should focus on being a 330 hitter throughout. He’s going to be a great season and has a possibility of being an MVP player.
Gonzalez mentioned that the team purposely put Puig’s locker next to his and that the 31-year-old first baseman continues to mentor the young outfielder. Not only is Gonzalez looking after Puig, but he’s taken to another young outfielder in Joc Pederson, who he says he can relate to due to their left-handed swing.
After a year or so with the Boston Red Sox, the Dodgers acquired Gonzalez along with Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford in a blockbuster deal that changed the course of both franchises. In his first full year with the Dodgers, “A-Gon” hit .293 with 22 home runs and 100 RBI as he was easily the most consistent hitter on the team.
It sounds like Gonzalez has taken on more of a leadership role with the departure of veterans over the off-season as the Dodgers need his steady bat in the lineup all season long.
ICYMI: Don Mattingly had to this to say about the Dodgers trip to Australia