Puig eager to gain foothold after trade to Indians
The slugger was wearing Reds flip-flops with his Cleveland workout gear Thursday, two days after being acquired from Cincinnati in a three-team trade that also included San Diego.
“My bad,” Puig said, laughing. “I came straight to see you guys. You’re not going to see that one again.”
Puig started in right field and hit cleanup for the series finale against Houston. In his first at-bat, he lined out to center field against major league strikeout leader Gerrit Cole.
Fellow newcomer Franmil Reyes batted sixth as the designated hitter. The Indians are hoping the 6-foot-2, 240-pound Puig and the 6-5, 275-pound Reyes can bring their much-needed power to a team that’s closed the gap on AL Central-leading Minnesota.
“With God giving me another opportunity, bringing me to Cleveland, I can make my dream come true with this team,” said Puig, who batted .252 with 22 home runs, 61 RBIs and 14 stolen bases in 100 games with the Reds. “Keep going, make the playoffs again, fight in the playoffs.”
“With Houston, the Yankees, no matter who’s coming, we’re going to fight and do the best we can like a family and like a team together and win the championship. This team has potential and good players to go to the World Series,” he said.
In his final game with Cincinnati, Puig was part of a wild brawl against the Pirates that drew him a three-game suspension. He learned of his trade shortly after being ejected and is appealing his punishment, meaning he can play until there is a resolution.
The 28-year-old native of Cuba said it was difficult to conceal his happiness about joining a playoff contender while he was among his Reds teammates.
“I started laughing, but I didn’t want to get too excited because I needed to respect my (former) team because we lost and were coming back from an altercation,” Puig said. “My friends said they needed to buy a new hat and a new jersey, but I said, OK, this is part of the job. We’re going to be in a better place.”
Free agent to-be Puig said he has been friends with Indians first baseman Carlos Santana and shortstop Francisco Lindor for several years. He was on an MLB-sponsored trip to Japan with Cleveland manager Terry Francona in 2014.
The Indians and Reds share a spring training facility in Goodyear, Arizona, so he also is familiar with many other people within the organization.
“Everybody is talking about Tito being an amazing manager and an amazing person, so I’m excited to be next to him and to start talking to him,” Puig said. “I’m feeling he can help me a lot in these next three months to be a better baseball player and a better person off the field.”
Reyes, who hit .255 with 27 homers and 46 RBIs in 99 games with San Diego, has a unique tie to the area. He met his wife, Marian, while playing in a Single-A game for Fort Wayne at Lake County, whose ballpark is located in the Cleveland suburb of Eastlake.
The 24-year-old Reyes quickly became a fan favorite with the Padres and believes the same will be true in his new home.
“When I got the news, the first thing I told my wife was, ‘It’s crazy, we’re getting back to where we started,'” he said. “So Cleveland is really special for me. I know I’m going to have a lot of love from the city.”