Yasiel Puig returns to Dodgers after demotion to minors
LOS ANGELES >> Yasiel Puig returned to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday, seemingly chastened by a monthlong demotion to the minors to work on his hitting and his attitude.
The former All-Star started in right field against the San Diego Padres after being called up earlier in the day from Triple-A Oklahoma City.
"Ultimately, we felt he made us better," manager Dave Roberts said. "He can impact a game in a lot of different ways."
The 25-year-old Cuban hit .358 with five home runs and 14 RBIs in 24 games since being optioned to the minors on Aug. 2. He had been hitting just .260 with seven homers and 34 RBIs in 81 games with Los Angeles.
"They made the right choice sending me down there but now I was doing the correct things to come back," Puig said through a translator. "I'm here now and I'm grateful for the opportunity."
Earlier in the week, Puig was reportedly placed on revocable waivers and claimed by at least one other club without a trade being worked out.
"I don't decide those things," he said. "If I'm here in Los Angeles, I'm going to take advantage of the opportunity and enjoy the city. If it's with another team, then that's something that I can't control. I am thankful for the opportunity and I'm going to try to do my best to be a good teammate."
Puig said he learned discipline and how to be a better teammate during his minor league stint.
"It wasn't embarrassing. I earned the demotion," he said. "I feel like I'm a better person and I'm here now to show it, to play well, to do things that will positively affect my future."
While he was away, the Dodgers maintained a tenuous hold on first in the NL West, something Puig admitted was difficult to watch from afar. He met with some of his teammates before batting practice.
"They explained to me what they needed from me," he said. "That's really what I was looking for was a talk with the teammates, a talk with everyone, and having that understanding of what was needed from me to succeed on this team."
Roberts said the organization is "very hopeful" the episode proves to be a turning point for Puig.
"He was humbled to go down to Triple-A," the manager said. "To swallow your pride, to take care of business and to look at yourself in the mirror and say, 'I got to be better," that's tough to do. But for him to do that, it says a lot about his character."
Roberts and Andrew Friedman, president of baseball operations, first discussed bringing Puig back with a handful of veteran players.
"If they said that they didn't want him, I would have been surprised," Roberts said. "They know the character of Yasiel and what he can bring to help us win baseball games and that's the ultimate goal. I certainly would have been surprised if they had nixed the idea."
Puig's status in right field isn't guaranteed. While he was gone, the Dodgers acquired Josh Reddick, who has shared time with rookie Andrew Toles. Veteran Andre Ethier is expected back this month after missing most of the season with a broken leg.
"Now I'm going to get to work," Puig said, "and hopefully you'll see the success of 2013. That's what I'll be working for."