SAN FRANCISCO -- As a focused and less anxious Yasiel Puig gives the Los Angeles Dodgers everything they were hoping to see this month, the always unpredictable player still is moving through life to the beat of his own backing band.
A rejuvenated Puig already has earned his way onto the postseason roster with an impressive September, while still doing things his way, such as sending an autographed T-shirt to the San Francisco Giants' Madison Bumgarner to diffuse a recent rift.
On Thursday at San Diego, it was Puig bringing a 12-year-old Dodgers fan onto the field to do 50 pushups to earn an autographed bat. The kid held up his end, getting the bat and an autograph on his cardboard sign that read, "Will do push-ups 4 a bat!!"
Of course it was Puig who took the kid up on his offer. He is a guy who sees things different than everybody else. The audacity to send Bumgarner a "#DONTLOOKATME" T-shirt the day after Bumgarner told Puig, "Don’t look at me" was either mad, genius or both.
"I wouldn't have thought to send a T-shirt over to Bumgarner after that incident," manager Dave Roberts said. "I just think that a lot of things [Puig] does is playful, and he doesn't take things too seriously. And so I think it was a good message to extend an olive branch. It was good by him."
The shirt was said to have been received well by Bumgarner, who took the gift in the spirit it was intended. It helped that Bumgarner's friend Charlie Culberson instigated the whole thing. At the time, it appeared to be Culberson's greatest contribution all season, until five days later when his game-ending home run against the Colorado Rockies clinched the National League West.
On Friday, the Dodgers will play at San Francisco, starting the final three-game series against the Giants. Bumgarner is due on the mound for San Francisco. Puig is expected to be in the Dodgers' starting lineup. Expect to find out the true impact of that olive branch.
Roberts said he would not be surprised if umpires gave both team warnings before the game against further animosity. But he feels the matter has been resolved.
"I think that heat of the moment, tempers flared a little bit, and Bumgarner is very emotional, obviously," Roberts said. "But after the T-shirts and sending them to their clubhouse, they might have shared a drink together, I don't know. But I think it's all behind them."
Asked about Bumgarner on Thursday, Puig politely declined to comment, adding that he had nothing else to say. Asked about making the postseason roster, however, and he was a chatterbox.
As it turned out, Puig did not even know his September body of work had earned him a postseason opportunity until it was reported by the media Tuesday.
"I found out from you guys; I really didn't know," Puig said through an interpreter. "I just saw that it was something Dave talked about. But if it really is true, then it is the result of all the hard work. It seems like this is the way God repays you when you work hard and do your job. It's an opportunity that comes from working hard."
Puig's September has included four home runs, 10 RBIs and a .595 slugging percentage. But there are also six walks and determined defense in right field. He is even starting to play a little center field again, and could be used there late in playoff games on a potential double switch.
Operating as a platoon player in right field, and off the bench in some games, is all new for Puig, but as the Dodgers see it, it is giving him a better chance at success. And any kind of offense against left-handed pitching is what the Dodgers have desperately needed.
"It's pretty hard," Puig said of the part-time role. "It's something I really haven't done before. But I just continue to get ready. I don't even think there are many lefties in baseball and not many lefties left in the playoffs, but I will continue to work and see what opportunities I get."
When Puig was struggling in the first half, he was a jumpy hitter who did not discriminate much when it came to the pitches he selected to try to hit. For the Dodgers to suddenly trust him off the bench late in games during key situations shows the strides the 25-year-old has made.
"He has been unbelievable," president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said of Puig during Thursday’s telecast. "We're seeing a really good version of Yasiel Puig right now."
And it is coming at the perfect time, with the Dodgers set to open the playoffs next Friday against the Washington Nationals.
The pressure of the playoffs figures to be easier to deal with for a guy who was shipped off to the minor leagues less than two months ago without any assurances he would return. The demotion seemed to force Puig into being less self-conscious and more willing to deliver for the team, even if the process might happen to put him in uncomfortable situations at times.
"I really have nothing to lose when I go up to bat," Puig said. "It seems like that's why I have been more relaxed. I'm just trying to take advantage of the situations, take advantage of the opportunity that is given to me and help my team.
"The ultimate goal is to win a World Series and that is what we will focus on now. The offseason we will continue to work and whatever decision is taken next season that is what we will go with."
Puig seems to know that if the Dodgers were willing to trade him in July and August, a deal still could be coming now that his value has improved. For now, though, he is walking tall and proud again. There is a sense that the music in his head is playing at just the right tempo.
"I know they are depending on me in certain situations, and I know that other teams are watching me, so I can show that I am definitely a player that is still capable of doing these things," he said.