Yasiel Puig: walking the walk and listening to the talk

25 Comments

GLENDALE, Ariz. — There are no accidents. For example, when you walk into the Dodgers’ clubhouse here at Camelback Ranch, you note that, high on the wall above a row of lockers is a quote from a Dodgers legend:

“If you rush in and out of the clubhouse, you rush in and out of baseball.” — Pee Wee Reese

Directly beneath that sign is the locker of one Yasiel Puig, himself known for rushing into the clubhouse with little or no time to spare on occasion. Coincidence? I think not.

Also not a coincidence: veteran Adrian Gonzalez’s locker directly next to Puig’s, despite the fact that all of the other big-time veterans — Juan Uribe, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier — are around the corner from them. Between the Reese quote and the veteran presence, it’s almost as if the Dodgers are making sure that their young superstar is especially well-mentored.

To be fair to Mr. Puig, he was in the clubhouse bright and early today, sitting in front of his locker next to young Alex Guerrero, each having finished a workout already, and each dutifully answering the questions of the Spanish-speaking media. This despite the fact that he’s not in today’s lineup and, if he wanted to, could go hang out in the trainer’s room and be anti-social. We’ve heard tell that Puig wants to make a point to be less of a distraction this year. To just be one guy on the team and carry himself like a quiet professional. I suppose this is as good a start as any.

People who watch him every day are noticing too.

We’ve had two years to watch Yasiel Puig unleash his amazing physical gifts and baseball skills on Major League Baseball. If the appearances and talk around Camelback Ranch about Puig sharpening his focus and putting just as much mental effort into his game as physical effort are accurate, we could see something pretty damn special from the Dodgers right fielder this coming season.

Dodgers upset with Héctor Neris after Thursday’s game

Hunter Martin/Getty Images
12 Comments

July hasn’t treated Phillies closer Héctor Neris well. Entering Thursday, he had allowed runs in three of his last four appearances, blowing two saves in the process. His struggles continued as he allowed a two-out solo home run to Alex Verdugo in the bottom of the ninth inning on Thursday afternoon, closing the deficit to 7-6. Thankfully for the Phillies, he was able to get the final out, getting Justin Turner to fly out to right field. An excited Neris looked into the Dodgers’ dugout and yelled an expletive.

The four-game series between the Dodgers and Phillies had quite some drama. After Matt Beaty hit a go-ahead three-run home run in the top of the ninth inning on Tuesday, Neris threw a pitch at the next batter, David Freese, seemingly in frustration. Neris was suspended three games. He appealed his punishment, which is why he’s been allowed to pitch. In the fourth inning of Thursday’s game, Max Muncy and Beaty stepped on first baseman Rhys Hoskins‘ ankle on consecutive plays. That, along with his own struggles, explains why Neris might’ve been amped up after closing out the ballgame.

The Dodgers were, understandably, not happy about Neris yelling at them. Several players shouted back, including Clayton Kershaw and Russell Martin. An unamused Muncy glared at Neris. Martin suggested to Neris that they meet in the hallway.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said after the game, “I think we played this series the right way, played it straight. To look in our dugout and to taunt in any way, I think it’s unacceptable. Look in your own dugout.”

Muncy said, “He’s blown about eight saves against us over the last two years. I guess he was finally excited he got one. Whatever.”

Neris attributed his outburst to emotions, saying, “It’s a great win for my team and just I let my emotion get out.”

In baseball, everyone is pro-showing-emotion when it’s himself and his teammates, and against when it’s players on the other team. Muncy got into a back-and-forth with Giants starter Madison Bumgarner after flipping his bat and watching his long home run at Oracle Park last month. Bumgarner jawed at him and Muncy said, “I just told him if he doesn’t want me to watch the ball, go get it out of the ocean.”

Neris, however, is the last guy on the Phillies who should be antagonizing the Dodgers after his terrible decision to throw at Freese, not to mention his overall poor performance against them. The Phillies were pigs in mud who wanted to wrestle and the Dodgers jumped in with them for some reason. Thankfully, the two teams are done playing each other for the rest of the regular season.