Expectations key as Roberts meets Puig
New Dodgers manager will take honest approach with outfielder
LOS ANGELES -- Eight weeks into his job as Dodgers manager, Dave Roberts has become familiar with his new front office, his new coaching staff and his new role.
On Thursday, Roberts will get to know his biggest challenge. He's meeting with Yasiel Puig.
Through the baseball grapevine, from executives and players and media, Roberts has heard about Puig's antics, about how the club previously tolerated Puig's defiance and now is taking a stricter tact after a second disappointing season from the one-time sensation.
Roberts comes to the Dodgers with a clean slate. He doesn't worry about the departure of Zack Greinke, because he never managed Greinke. And he isn't prejudging Puig, but he won't coddle him, either.
"I'm looking forward to spending time with him," Roberts said. "Any player that has success, especially as a young player, then there's injuries and you don't have the year you expect to have, I would expect him to have a different outlook in '16. This will be a big day for me and for him, our first opportunity to be face to face. I'm just going to be honest with him, let him know what our expectations are of him. And for the most part, players have higher expectations than coaches or even the media. It should be good."
Since being named manager, Roberts has worked on the construction of a coaching staff strong on teaching and enthusiasm, had discussions with the front office on roster moves and begun building relationships with his players.
"Now we're starting to focus on Spring Training. It's getting exciting because we're close to finally playing baseball," he said.
Roberts said he understands why some fans are anxious after the hole left by Greinke, even though Roberts never managed the new ace of the D-backs.
"I really believe as a manager, your job is to manage the players that come to you," he said. "Any team that had Zack Greinke is better for it. I do believe there's a lot of carryover. Although he's in Arizona, the impact he made on his former teammates -- his work ethic, his competitiveness, his preparation -- the 2016 Dodgers team will be better for it. But when I look around the league, I love our club and our rotation more than any."
Roberts said he's received upbeat medical reports on the three position players coming off operations -- third baseman Justin Turner (left knee), catcher Yasmani Grandal (catcher) and utility player Kiké Hernandez (right shoulder), but Turner might be on a reduced work schedule early in camp.
"It's a little more touchy with microfracture surgery," he said of Turner. "Kiké and Yasmani are tracking to be healthy at the beginning of camp. With Justin, we're going to take our time with him. You can always get at-bats in the spring. We've told him there's no rush, just be healthy, whatever that day is."
Roberts said outfield roles and batting orders will be sorted out during Spring Training. He said he's not concerned about rookie shortstop Corey Seager's inexperience, because of the balance provided by veterans Adrian Gonzalez and Chase Utley in the infield.
"What I did see of Corey, there's a lot to like," Roberts said. "Adrian is just the billboard for consistency. He's at the park all the time; he looks great. What he brings to a club for a manager is just very low maintenance. He knows what to do at the plate. He just has to continue to be Adrian. As a first-time manager, it's nice to have a guy you can pencil in every day and know what you're going to get."