Roberts believes upbeat Puig can help Dodgers

Roberts believes upbeat Puig can help Dodgers

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The Dodgers' problems hitting left-handed pitching last season were well documented, as their collective slash line of .213/.290/.332 (.622 OPS) would indicate.

One of the keys to improving those numbers for next year could lie in the acquisition of a marquee right-handed bat such as Ryan Braun. In fact, it was rumored that the Dodgers and Brewers came close to consummating a deal in August that would have brought Braun to Los Angeles for a package that reportedly would have included outfielder Yasiel Puig, who had a stint in the Minors this year after hitting .260 with an OPS of .706 in his first 81 games of 2016.

With a trade of Puig still not completely ruled out this winter, the right-handed-hitting native of Cuba is working out in Miami and is on a new nutritional program to lose weight, according to manager Dave Roberts, who spoke at the Winter Meetings on Monday.

"He's excited to come into Spring Training healthy; his weight's going to be where he needs it to be and where the training staff feels it's best for him," said Roberts, who added that Puig will begin hitting off a tee "in the near future" and will travel to Los Angeles at the beginning of January to work with Dodgers strength and conditioning coach Brandon McDaniel. "He's in good spirits."

Upon his demotion to Triple-A Oklahoma City in August, Puig hit .348 with an OPS of .994 and four home runs in 19 games. After being called back up to the Dodgers in September, he hit .281/.338/.561 with four home runs in 23 games.

According to Roberts, Puig's Minor League assignment wasn't solely based on his perceived lack of maturity and dedication.

"I don't think it was 100 percent about the citizenship," Roberts said. "I think there was a little performance piece, too, as far as the mechanics in his swing getting out of whack.

"For him to get out of a Major League season and to not have to worry about performing, to work through his mechanics is what he did well. That, layered with the good teammate component, I think that he came back with some clarity and excitement to be back. And he contributed."

In a colorful four-year Major League career marked by some notable achievements on the field and at the same time some disconcerting flashes of immaturity, Puig has provided moments both unforgettable and forgettable. But the Dodgers hope that Puig, who will turn 26 on Wednesday, is taking more steps in the right direction this winter.

And Roberts expressed his confidence that going forward, Puig can be part of the solution to the Dodgers' woes against left-handers.

"I think he can," said Roberts of Puig, who hit 265/.329/.386 against right-handers last season and 261/.313/.471 against lefties. "He's shown that he can slug righties, slug lefties, but to have a guy with his skills obviously makes us better."

David Venn is the executive editor of MLB.com's Spanish site, LasMayores.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.