Upbeat Yasiel Puig fostering optimism for Dodgers

Yasiel Puig seems to have brought an improved attitude to spring training this season, which the Dodgers hope translates into improved production. AP Photo/Danny Moloshok

PHOENIX – The Los Angeles Dodgers' position players will not have their first official spring training workout until Thursday, yet outfielder Yasiel Puig is already giving off positive vibes.

Puig arrived in the desert over the weekend and has kept a low profile at the Dodgers’ spring training complex thus far.

“Low” and “profile” are two words typically not used in conjunction to describe Puig, the wildly talented outfielder who has been known to create a stir at times and was limited to just 79 games last season because of injuries.

But with a fresh start to a new season quickly at hand, along with a new manager in Dave Roberts, Puig seems to be embracing the clean slate he has received.

“Everything has been great with him so far,” general manager Farhan Zaidi said Monday. “Dave has put a lot of energy into the relationship, and Yasiel has kind of responded to that. Reading some of Yasiel’s comments, he seems to be coming in with a higher level of accountability, and sort of responsibility, for the team’s success. And we think that’s a terrific thing.”

Puig talked to ESPN Deportes earlier this month, addressing Roberts’ arrival and the fact that he needs to be more accountable in the clubhouse.

“I talked to [Roberts] and I am glad that he's on board, because I believe that he will help me a lot to relate to everybody on the team,” Puig said. “When I was in Cuba (in December), I asked Nelson Cruz and Miguel Cabrera for some advice, because in their beginnings in MLB, they were also criticized.

“I don't know how to do it [to relate]. I'm not going locker by locker, shaking hands with everyone. The people like to criticize everything. They even criticized God, whom they didn't know, so, it doesn't matter if they criticize Yasiel Puig.”

The Dodgers will be pleased if Puig not only is able to relate to his teammates, but puts up production that matches his ability.

“We’re a different team when he’s playing and he’s on than when he’s not, even though we have depth and have other options in the outfield,” Zaidi said. “Yasiel Puig, when he is firing on all cylinders, there aren’t many players like him. We are excited about how everything is going both from a mental standpoint and from a physical standpoint.”

The Dodgers did ask Puig to lose some weight this offseason, not necessarily because he was fat, but they didn’t want him to be as muscle-bound as he was last season, believing that a rigid physique led to some of his soft-tissue injuries.

Although no official weight-loss numbers have been revealed, the consensus seems to be that he is at least down a few pounds.

“Every year is a critical year (for a player),” Zaidi said. “I think the older you get, the more you feel that way. And I think some of [Puig’s] comments kind of reflect that that you only have so much time in the big leagues, so much time in every organization, and every year is critical. I think that is part of the maturity process for young players is to get to that point and not feel like you’re leaving any opportunities on the table.”