MINNEAPOLIS – If Yasiel Puig was embarrassed or upset about not hitting a single home run in Monday night’s Gillette Home Run Derby, you could hardly tell it by watching him. He was joking around with his NL teammates, particularly fellow Cuban pitcher Aroldis Chapman, well after he had bowed out.
You could hardly tell by listening to him. His booming voice literally echoed off the walls of the National League clubhouse following the derby as he bantered in Spanish with some of his teammates.
Puig shrugged off his poor performance in the derby. Many people thought he was going to win because of his flair for dramatic gestures and his big home runs in batting practice.
“Then they thought wrong,” Puig said through an interpreter. “I came to be with my five friends from Cuba. It’s for fun. Maybe next time, I’ll do better.”
Puig admitted to being nervous because it was his first time and said he didn’t decide on a batting practice pitcher until Monday, when he picked Jose Cano, the father of Robinson Cano, someone Puig considers a friend. Originally, Puig wanted to hit off Dodgers bullpen coach Rob Flippo, but Flippo had a family engagement and didn’t come to Minnesota.
The Dodgers have a fairly pitiful record in the derby. Matt Kemp hit just one homer in 2012.
Puig said he would welcome another chance. For now, fellow Cuban Yoenis Cespedes is the king of the event. He has won it two years in a row.
“He picks good pitches, he hits with a lot of power and he’s a great home run hitter,” Puig said of Cespedes. “I think that’s why he does as well as he does. Chapman, myself and all the Cubans here were rooting him on and he’s a great hitter.”
Of course, the zero home runs the Dodgers are concerned about from Puig relates more to June than it does to Monday night’s derby. Puig has also been experiencing a real-world power outage: just one home run since May 28.
Before the derby began, he said he has been working on his home run swing in batting practice.
“But it would help if I got some pitches to hit,” Puig said.