Sunday MLB Insider: Puig needs time to handle fame

  • Article by: LA VELLE E. NEAL III , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 13, 2013 - 6:26 PM

The Dodgers rookie was not voted into the All-Star Game, but that could give him time to get a handle on his sudden celebrity.

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Dodgers rookie outfielder Yasiel Puig has captured the imagination of baseball with his spectacular start, hitting .397 with eight home runs and 19 RBI in his first 36 games.

Photo: ALEX GALLARDO • Associated Press,

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After Major League Baseball announced its All-Star Game rosters, the field for the now-annual Final Vote was released. And it appeared that there was no way Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig would miss out on the All-Star Game.

The kid from Cienfuegos, tore up the league in June, assembled an army of followers and helped the Dodgers escape the basement of the NL West division. His skills are marvelous. He chases pitches out of the strike zone like Bo Jackson but hits them like Kirby Puckett. He entered the weekend batting .397 with eight home runs and 19 RBI.

Puig, however, lost the Final Vote to Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, who was backed by his club’s massive campaign.

Unless there’s a late-breaking injury, there will be no Puig-apalooza at Citi Field on Tuesday.

At first, I thought it was baseball’s loss to miss out on a good story like Puig’s at the Midsummer’s Classic. Now, not so much.

Puig, 22, has 36 games of major league experience and has a lot to learn. On the field, Puig already is being pitched differently by clubs looking for a weakness. To his credit, he has eight hits (all singles) over his past five games, so he’s finding ways to get on base.

But he has rubbed opponents the wrong way at times.

‘‘That’s where he’s going right now, creating a bad reputation throughout the league,’’ Arizona’s Miguel Montero said.

Montero is upset because Puig stared him down after trying to run him over at home plate recently. There’s nothing wrong with Puig showing emotion, but opponents and umpires won’t like being shown up, and there will be a price to pay.

Another incident: Diamondbacks legend Luis Gonzalez approached Puig before a game and tried to talk with him (Gonzalez was born in Florida but has a Cuban background). Puig ignored him. Would he do that to Cuban icon Tony Oliva?

Another issue came up Thursday. A few hours before the final vote results, the league and players’ association released the top-selling jerseys in the game. Puig was 10th — ahead of Miguel Cabrera. That’s marketing power worth taking advantage of.

It’s too early to call Puig a brat. His life has changed dramatically since signing with the Dodgers last year.

But not being in the All-Star Game isn’t the worst thing for him. He can use the break to figure out the best way to handle his instant stardom.

Central Intelligence

White Sox General Manager Rick Hahn is plotting a course for his team to return to contention in the near future.

Hahn believes he has enough good pitchers to build around. The everyday lineup needs to be upgraded. Sox hitters don’t work counts, strike out a lot and can’t manufacture runs. So any moves Hahn makes will involve getting position players in return, and that began Friday when lefthanded reliever Matt Thornton was traded to Boston for Brandon Jacobs, a 22-year-old outfielder. Reliever Matt Lindstrom is also available, and outfielder Alex Rios could be had for the right price.

Paul Konerko, Jesse Crain and Jake Peavy could be dealt once they come off the disabled list.

One encouraging position player has been rookie catcher Josh Phegley, who has three home runs, including a grand slam, in his first 20 major league at-bats.

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