Cuban teenager thrilled to meet Dodgers outfielder
By Jesse Sanchez
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- Two of the most popular and intriguing figures in Cuban baseball decided to take in a Caribbean Series game Friday night.
Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig and teenage prospect Lazarito Armenteros watched parts of the game between Cuba's Ciego de Avila and Dominican Republic's Leones del Escogido together from the stands at Estadio Quisqueya Juan Marichal.
Armenteros, 16, who is scheduled for a private workout for the Braves on Saturday, and is expected to make a decision on his future sometime next week, was overjoyed to meet one of his baseball heroes. Puig is in town to visit friends and do charity work.
"It was a real honor to have a conversation with a Major Leaguer," Armenteros said in Spanish. "It's my first time to see a famous player like him and more than that, a Cuban like me. He just told me to work hard and it's up to me."
Puig, fresh off meeting with new Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, appeared on the ESPN Deportes broadcast, and later spoke to a group of reporters gathered in the lobby on the fifth floor of the stadium.
"I'm working hard every day so I can show up in good shape for Spring Training. I'll still have a month and a half in Spring Training to get better and do what I have to do to be ready for the season," Puig said in Spanish. "We've gone to the playoffs several times in a row and we never made it to the World Series. Maybe this year with a new manager we can make it back to the playoffs and try to get to the World Series. We know the championship would be a great gift for us and the great city of Los Angeles."
Last week, Roberts discussed a face-to-face meeting with Puig to talk about the club's vision and giving the outfielder a fresh start. For his part, Puig is looking forward to playing for Roberts.
"I had three seasons with the previous manager and [Don Mattingly] did the best he could," Puig said in Spanish. "When we got to the playoffs we could not do anything for him and for ourselves, either. They gave him a lot of opportunities. They made the change and we will see what happens. Maybe it was the manager. Maybe it was us. Nobody knows. All I know is they changed the manager and we are hoping for good luck and God's blessings to get back to playoffs for the fourth time in a row and win a World Series."
Armenteros, who is subject to the international signing guidelines because of his age and experience, was declared a free agent by Major League Baseball on Jan. 8, and expects to make a decision on his future when he becomes eligible to sign with a team starting Wednesday.
There are currently nine teams with serious interest in Armenteros, and he is expected to decide whether he will sign during the current international signing period that started July 2, 2015, or wait until the next international signing period begins July 2.
"I'm always ready. I'm realizing my dream to play professional baseball," Armenteros said. "I'm planning on making a decision on [Feb. 10], but only God knows what will happen and when I will sign. I'm not worried about it. I'm just waiting on the right opportunity."
Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.