The Yasiel Puig hope phase returns, Hyun-Jin Ryu is pain-free, and a relief help update

I’ve loved Yasiel Puig since he broke into the league, both for the production he provided and the flair that came along with it. However, as he’s learned in the past two seasons, unless the production continues, nobody cares much about the flair. Or worse yet, you start to become more trouble than you’re worth to your team, which came to a head in late-2016 with the dramatics over his demotion.

But hey, it’s 2017 now and the season’s about to start a couple months, so hope springs eternal, especially for a player with as much upside as Puig holds. And, of course, Yasiel Puig is once again focused, once again in shape, and once again ready to be the player he once was, according to Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times.

“I want to be a starter again, whether it’s here or anywhere else,” Puig said through an interpreter at a Coffee Bean in Studio City, on the first day of the team’s annual community tour. “I’m going to continue working. I want to be a better person, in and out of the field, and I’m hoping I can work toward that.”

People have been taking that as an ominous sign that he’s thinking about being elsewhere, but any time his status on the Dodgers has come up before, he has basically always said that he just wants to play baseball no matter where it is.

At baseball’s winter meetings in December, Manager Dave Roberts indicated the goal was for Puig to “lean out,” so he could be more flexible at the plate. “Even before he said that, I had already made the decision to be healthier,” Puig said. “I’m conscious that I need to be at a good weight so I can run better.” Puig said he hired a chef to cook for him to improve his diet. He said he was hitting on a daily basis, with three sessions of outdoor batting practice per week. During a trip to the Dominican Republic for his charity, he spent a week working out with Robinson Cano, the Seattle Mariners’ All-Star second baseman.

Everything sounds great here, but we did hear this last off-season as well when he worked out with Miguel Cabrera, so we’ll see in Spring Training.

“I just thought I was very anxious to meet all the expectations,” Puig said. “That’s something that I’ve cleared out of my mind. I asked God to help me to go out there, to respect my teammates and respect myself. That way, I can better myself.”

Again, it’s wonderful that he’s saying all the right things, but we have to be at the “I’ll believe it when I see it” stage with him as well. Because as he showed in 2016, everything on the surface can be trending in the right direction … until a slew of articles destroying that facade emerges and reveals reality. I’d love to be less cynical about this, but there’s not a lot of reason to believe right now until he gives the Dodgers tangible results.

Yet despite all that I would be lying if I didn’t watch video of what we all know he can do on the field and draw hope from that, basically wondering “but what if”. Hopefully 2017 is the year where we stop having to wonder or hope and Puig just delivers.

Farhan Zaidi and Dave Roberts seem to be at the same phase as most of us.

Probably the right way to approach it at this stage. They want him to be the guy, but he has to earn it.

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In other news that’s sorta oddly related in terms of hope is concerned, Hyun-Jin Ryu says he’s pain-free and ready to go, according to Jee Ho Yoo of Yonhap News Agency.

Following two surgeries that limited him to one start over the past two years, Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Ryu Hyun-jin said Wednesday he’s pain-free and ready to take the mound again.

“Right now, I’d say I am in better shape than I normally would be at the start of spring training,” Ryu told reporters at Incheon International Airport. “I threw four bullpen sessions a day while training in Japan. I have no pain at the moment.”

“I think I have to start throwing on the mound from the very beginning of the camp,” he said. “And I think I am physically ready to do that.”

People forget quickly, but Ryu has a career 3.28 ERA, 2.97 FIP, and 3.05 DRA in his 348.2 innings of work. He also compiled 6.0 RA9 WAR and 7.4 FIP WAR in just 57 starts. As such, even a lesser version of himself could be valuable at the back-end of a rotation, for depth if nothing else.

It’s best not to put too much hope into any labrum tear pitcher who has the same amount of MLB starts as surgeries since, but if he truly is pain-free and ready to pitch off a mound coming into Spring Training, it’s a promising sign.

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This shouldn’t come as any surprise, but the Dodgers are not exactly done with their roster. They see the same creaky bridge to Kenley Jansen at the present as everybody else and are aiming to upgrade that.

Joe Blanton might come back, or they might even pursue … Jerry Blevins?

Blevins, heading into his age-33 season, is a lefty reliever coming off a year in which he posted a 2.79 ERA, 3.09 FIP, and 2.96 DRA. He does seem like more of a specialist option with an attack of primarily a fastball that sits 88-90 mph and a curve.

Regardless, at least a bullpen upgrade seems to be in the cards.

About Chad Moriyama

Chad Moriyama
I get paid millions by the Dodgers. MILLIONS!