Dodger rookie Yasiel Puig hasn’t had many problems with opposing pitchers since being called up to the major leagues six weeks ago. Dealing with the media, however, has proved another issue.
Puig joined teammate Juan Uribe in a heated confrontation with an ESPN reporter Thursday that eventually became so loud, Hanley Ramirez turned the clubhouse stereo all the way up in an effort to keep Spanish-speaking reporters from understanding what the three men were arguing about.
Puig has not been shy in talking about his disdain for reporters, which apparently runs so deep the Dodgers media relations staff has adopted a special policy for him. While everyone else on the team can be approached with questions before games, Puig is off-limits.
That policy was altered slightly Thursday after Puig finished second in voting for the All-Star Game, with the Dodgers arranging a pregame interview with a small group of journalists. But after a half-dozen questions Puig cut the session short and left the clubhouse for an adjoining room that is closed to the media.
“For me, playing baseball is easier than anything else. Because it’s what I’ve done all my life, play baseball,” he said in Spanish. “But the press is something new for me. And it’s something new and it’s difficult because sometimes they put in things that I never said.”
Manager Don Mattingly, who dealt with a large and aggressive media contingent as a player and coach with the Yankees, said the pressure on Puig has been enormous.
“It’s everywhere we go, and it’s every time he steps his foot in the locker room,” Mattingly said. “It’s like bam, bam, -bam. He just wants to go play. We have to give him a little bit of a break. We have to look at it a little bit from his side. He’s coming from a different country, just gets to the big leagues and it’s like ‘wow.’
“He may like it, the fact that he’s playing here. But it’s still a lot to deal with. For him, saying, ‘I just want to play. I can’t play my best baseball when I walk in and have to do stories every day,’ I get it.”
ESPN had reporters following Puig on the Dodgers’ recent three-city road trip, and Thursday’s confrontation stemmed, in part, from an incident in San Francisco on Sunday when Uribe urged Puig to either speak to reporters or tell them to leave — an exchange reported in several outlets, including The Times.
A weary A.J. Ellis was held out of the lineup Thursday after catching 14 innings the night before. But at least he knows who to blame since it was his two-out single in the ninth that sent the game to extra innings.
“About the 13th inning, I was like ‘that hit might have been a huge mistake,’” joked Ellis, who, like the rest of the team, didn’t get to bed until about 4:30 Thursday morning.
Brandon League, who recently lost his job as closer, has decided to lose his old number as well, switching from No. 31 to the No. 43 he wore as an All-Star in Seattle. That number had previously been wore by assistant pitching coach Ken Howell.