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Puig in different city but keeping personality

Talented outfielder ready to be a fan favorite in Cincinnati
February 9, 2019

CINCINNATI -- Though some Reds fans were disappointed that Billy Hamilton wasn't brought back this season, it didn't take long for Cincinnati to find another dynamic player who also brings flash and unpredictability.That would be outfielder Yasiel Puig.Acquired from the Dodgers in December's seven-player trade that also brought pitcher Alex

CINCINNATI -- Though some Reds fans were disappointed that Billy Hamilton wasn't brought back this season, it didn't take long for Cincinnati to find another dynamic player who also brings flash and unpredictability.
That would be outfielder Yasiel Puig.
Acquired from the Dodgers in December's seven-player trade that also brought pitcher Alex Wood, outfielder Matt Kemp and catcher Kyle Farmer, Puig has wasted little time endearing himself to his new fan base. He is frequently on social media, often wearing a Reds cap, and showing off his personality in places ranging from a Hawaiian vacation to the dentist's chair.
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"It's something new for me. It's a new team. It's a new city. I'm happy to be here," Puig said during his first visit to Cincinnati as a Red on Jan. 30. "I came to this country to play baseball and no matter what team, I'm going to do the best that I can to help my team to the playoffs, keep the fans going and love the team."
Puig, 28, certainly had some detractors but was very much a fan favorite in Los Angeles. On the field, he was dubbed "Wild Horse" because of his aggressiveness -- whether it was to take an extra base, crash into the fence for a catch or throw out a runner with his fantastic arm.
There were also some outlandish antics from Puig, whether it was wild bat flips, licking his bat to encourage it to give him hits or jovially kissing hitting coach Turner Ward in the dugout. Ward joined new manager David Bell's coaching staff in November, almost two months ahead of Puig's arrival.
And sometimes, there were mental errors and mistakes. Puig is always capable of missing the cutoff man, getting himself thrown out being too aggressive on the bases, being late to hitters' meetings or clashing with teammates. Once in 2016 -- his fourth year in the Major Leagues -- he got demoted to Triple-A. But he also came back up humbled and more productive, especially in the postseason when he delivered some electric moments like a Game 7 home run vs. the Brewers in the National League Championship Series.

All of this is now yours, Cincinnati.
"I was born like that. No matter where I play, no matter what the city. I'm the same guy everywhere," Puig said. "I do this same stuff in Cuba, and I came to the United States when I signed with the Dodgers and I decided to do it, my tongue, crazy things I do in the field. It's not because Los Angeles is a bigger city or is a bigger market. I do that kind of stuff because [it's] coming from [inside]. I never practice to [stick] my tongue out or lick my bat."
Puig batted .267/.327/.494 with 23 home runs and 63 RBIs last season for the Dodgers and often credited Ward for helping him turn things around after his disappointing 2016 season.
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It's a pivotal year, personally, for Puig. He's eligible to be a free agent after the season. Hitting in cozy Great American Ball Park should be to his benefit, and that would be a boost for fans in attendance seeking excitement.
Following four consecutive seasons of more than 90 losses, the Reds have enlivened their fans with offseason improvements that also brought in pitcher Sonny Gray from the Yankees and pitcher Tanner Roark from the Nationals. The front office was also in pursuit for other deals, mostly recently one for J.T. Realmuto. But the All-Star catcher was dealt from the Marlins to the Phillies on Thursday.
None of the new arrivals have matched Puig's star power as of yet. During his recent house-hunting trip to Cincinnati, he was a tour de force that engaged with everyone, including Mayor John Cranley at City Hall and kids at the P&G MLB Urban Youth Academy. Puig even got on the phone to try and sell some season tickets while checking out the offices at GABP.
No matter what Puig does for the Reds this season, it's a good bet that it will be interesting.
"I've come here to bring this team to the playoffs again," Puig said. "I will do the best I can, and my teammates will do the best they can, too." 

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.