Cincinnati Reds: Yasiel Puig having fun with new team, fans

Cincinnati Reds’ Yasiel Puig licks his bat during the third inning of a spring training baseball game against the Seattle Mariners, Monday, Feb. 25, 2019, in Peoria, Ariz. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

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Cincinnati Reds’ Yasiel Puig licks his bat during the third inning of a spring training baseball game against the Seattle Mariners, Monday, Feb. 25, 2019, in Peoria, Ariz. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Reds outfielder Yasiel Puig is hard to miss.

Not only is his physical presence large but the man they call the Wild Horse speaks Spanish in a voice that drowns out the hum of voices in the clubhouse before the work of the day begins.

Every day since position players arrived in Goodyear last month, fans dressed in Dodger blue clog the driveway, leading to S. Wood Boulevard that leads away from the complex.

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“Puig, sign this please,” they yell as his vehicle exits the lot.

The Reds played the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch on Thursday and again Friday night in a sold out Goodyear Ball Park. Many times a player with a new teams avoids spring training games with their former team. The distraction of meeting with reporters from the last city they played for upsets their pre- or post-game routine.

Not Puig.

“He mentioned it to me that he wanted to play against the Dodgers a couple weeks ago,” David Bell said. “He was going to play in one of them anyway.”

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Puig, who led the Dodgers in triples (19), home runs (108) and extra base hits (256) during his six seasons there, circled the date on the calendar. He singled off Hyun-Jin Ryu in his first at bat on Thursday after a loud ovation from the announced crowd of 9,195.

“Everybody knew there would be a lot of fans here,” Puig said. “I like the way when I come inside to the field and went out to hit for the first time, face my old team, people cheer my name. I was so happy to hear that. I want to say thank you to all those fans. It is going to be loud in Los Angeles because there is going to be more people.”

He didn’t spend a lot of time talking to his former teammates still in Dodger blue. Three players Matt Kemp, Alex Wood and Kyle Farmer came to the Reds with Puig in the December trade.

“We said hi from far away,” Puig said. “We are going to see each other on April 15. We will have plenty of time to hi and kiss and whatever you want to do.”

Kiss?

“I only kiss Turner Ward,” Puig replied.

Ward is the Reds’ new hitting coach after three seasons coaching Puig in Los Angeles.

“I love to be on the same team with Matt Kemp and Alex Wood again,” Puig said. “But it is a little crazy to be with Turner Ward again. We joking all the time that he’s running now away from Puig. We are now on the same team. That is something funny and makes me feel good. I’m going to have my hitting coach from the last three years. That’s going to help me out a lot. He is a good hitting coach. Sometimes I joke with him that he’s not that good. I tell him he does a better job in psychology than hitting coach. I love his energy. He likes to talk a lot to me.”

Puig has performed well this spring. He is hitting .346 in 26 at bats with two doubles and two home runs.

“He brings a ton of energy,” Bell said. “He’s worked really hard. He’s has done a good job of preparing himself. We love having him around. I think he shows he’s comfortable here and happy to be here and that’s important.”

Puig is planning to play today, too, in the day game after a night game against the Dodgers.

“It want to play these games,” Puig said. “Not only because I want to see my old team but I have to be ready for the season. We only have 10 days left or 12. We will play more games and more innings to be ready for the season. We are going to have a good year in Cincinnati.”


SATURDAY’S GAME

Rangers vs. Reds, 4:05 p.m., 700

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