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Puig can't wait to 'beat my old teammates'

Reds outfielder is excited for first visit to Dodger Stadium since trade
@m_sheldon
April 15, 2019

MONTERREY, Mexico -- Ever since he had to trade in his Dodger blue over the winter, right fielder Yasiel Puig has embraced everything that’s red -- namely, his Reds club. Puig, along with Matt Kemp and Kyle Farmer, will visit Dodger Stadium for the first time Monday since they were

MONTERREY, Mexico -- Ever since he had to trade in his Dodger blue over the winter, right fielder Yasiel Puig has embraced everything that’s red -- namely, his Reds club.

Puig, along with Matt Kemp and Kyle Farmer, will visit Dodger Stadium for the first time Monday since they were part of a seven-player trade in December that brought them to Cincinnati along with lefty starter Alex Wood. The Reds and Dodgers will be playing in a three-game series.

“We’re going to Los Angeles, and we need to be prepared to beat my old teammates,” Puig said. “It’s going to be a lot of people there [who have] been waiting for Puig, Matt Kemp, Farmer, and Alex Wood is not here, but everybody expects a lot and been waiting for us to go back. We’re excited to go back.”

Currently on the injured list, Wood is out with a sore lower back suffered during Spring Training.

Puig met with the media in Los Angeles on Monday ahead of the 10:10 p.m. ET game.

In the wake of the Dec. 21, 2018, trade to Cincinnati, Puig immediately posted social media photos of him wearing a Reds cap. During a whirlwind visit to his new team in January, he captivated the city with high-profile visits to the P&G MLB Urban Youth Academy and city hall for face time with Mayor John Cranley, and he even made season ticket sales calls to fans in the Reds' front office. At Spring Training, many Dodgers fans wearing Puig’s No. 66 visited Reds camp in search of autographs or a picture.

Puig’s antics, such as licking and talking to his bat, often go viral. On the flip side, he has also been known to frustrate with his occasionally mercurial persona or mental mistakes on the field. His fiery side came out during an April 7 game at Pittsburgh when he helped defend teammate Derek Dietrich after he was intentionally hit by a pitch from Chris Archer. Just as order was being restored, Puig charged alone into a scrum of yellow-wearing Pirates players and earned a two-game suspension.

The Reds have seized on Puig’s star power and feature him in promotions -- including on signage for the just-completed Mexico Series vs. the Cardinals in Monterrey. On July 18, when the Reds play the Cardinals at Great American Ball Park, there will be a bobblehead giveaway featuring Puig riding a wild horse (his nickname).

At the moment, Puig is off to a slow start for Cincinnati. Through 14 games, he is batting .163/.200/.302 with one home run and six RBIs -- with his first homer as a Red coming in the eighth inning of Sunday's 9-5 loss to the Cardinals. He is eligible to become a free agent after the 2019 season.

"I've not done as much as I want to do for the team now," Puig said. "When you don't hit, you need to help your team in different ways -- like catching balls, throwing people out or make sure the batter doesn't get another base. That's the only thing I can do right now. I go out and play baseball every day and try to do something important and try to help my team to win. If it's not with the bat, I'm doing it with my glove now. I can do it with my glove. It's going to be a long season and I'm going to help my team with my bat and my glove soon, maybe starting in Los Angeles tomorrow."

Capping off his six seasons with the Dodgers, who signed him in 2012 after he defected from Cuba to Mexico, Puig batted .267/.327/.494 with 23 home runs and 63 RBIs over 125 games in 2018. The Dodgers made the postseason in each of his seasons with the club, including the past two World Series.

However, Puig was frustrated with Dodgers manager Dave Roberts last season for often using him in a platoon role rather than as the regular right fielder.

Puig got the fresh start he wanted with Cincinnati. But for three days, he and his legion of fans will have a chance to look back a little bit as his new team plays his old one.

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.