Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig says it isn’t for lack of effort he isn’t hitting
PHOENIX — Yasiel Puig isn’t hitting this spring but is trying to do something about it.
Batting only .172 in the exhibition season, Puig skipped a game against the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday in favor of a minor-league intrasquad game played on a back field of the Dodgers spring-training complex.
Puig took 10 at-bats and got four hits, including a home run and a triple.
“I feel better,” he said in Spanish.
Puig plans to return to the Dodgers lineup Friday against the Chicago Cubs. He said he will also play Saturday and Sunday, the last two days the Dodgers will spend in Arizona before departing to Australia for their season-opening, two-game series.
“We’ll see if those at-bats helped,” he said.
Puig said his timing at the plate has been off, something he is attempting to remedy with the assistance of hitting coach Mark McGwire and instructors John Valentin and Manny Mota.
“I’m focusing on hitting the ball more solidly,” he said. “I have to wait for pitches I can hit hard, not just swing at anything.”
Puig batted only .214 in September of last season, convincing scouts from opposing teams they discovered how to attack him: By pounding him inside with fastballs and throwing off-speed pitches away.
Puig said he is making adjustments and if he fails to produce at the same level he did in his rookie season last year, it wouldn’t be for lack of effort.
“What ultimately counts is the result on the field,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ll do better or worse, but I’ll work hard and try to do what I did last year or even more.”
Whatever problems Puig has experienced at the plate, he is pleased with his defensive development, particularly in his newfound ability to hit cut-off men. He sounded particularly proud of his part in a relay last week that prevented Mike Trout of the Angels from hitting an inside-the-park home run.
“He hit that ball well and he ran well, but thanks to the throw I made to Hanley [Ramirez] and the throw Hanley made home, we were able to throw him out,” he said. “If I tried to do what I did before, that wouldn’t have happened.”
A familiar face
If Erisbel Arruebarrena described himself accurately, the Dodgers could soon be considerably more entertaining. On the day he reported to camp, the 23-year-old shortstop said he plays with the same flair and emotion as Puig, his childhood friend.
“That’s typical of Latinos,” Arruebarrena said in Spanish.
Arruebarrena signed a five-year, $25-million contract last month, but couldn’t travel to the United States until he was a granted a work visa. He said he was in Haiti until a few of days ago.
Arruebarrena’s arrival lifted the spirits of Puig, who has known the reputed defensive wizard since they were 9.
Puig and Arruebarrena were raised in the province of Cienfuegos and played for its Cuban league team. As for the Dodgers’ other Cuban player, Alex Guerrero, Arruebarrena knew him from their days on Cuba’s national team.
“You get to a new team and there are Cuban players, players you know, it’s really emotional,” Arruebarrena said.
Arruebarrena said he didn’t know where he would be at the start of the season, but was confident he would reach the major leagues some time this year. He acknowledged he might not be ready immediately, saying, “It’s been a long time since I faced pitchers.”
Arruebarrena declined to speak about his defection from Cuba.
Matt Kemp played alongside Puig in the minor league intrasquad game and was 0 for 6. … Even though the thumb on his pitching hand is sprained, Josh Beckett plans to make his scheduled start Friday. “I’ll live,” he said. “It’s a long ways from my heart.”
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