published Monday, June 3rd, 2013

Yasiel Puig promoted to Los Angeles Dodgers

Chattanooga Lookout Yasiel Puig goes through his pre-batting routine in this April 18, 2013, file photo.
Chattanooga Lookout Yasiel Puig goes through his pre-batting routine in this April 18, 2013, file photo.
Photo by Tim Barber /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
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Yasiel Puig was never dull in his two-month stint as an outfielder with the Chattanooga Lookouts.

Now the adventure moves to Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Dodgers will announce the promotion of Puig to the majors today to aid an outfield hindered by injuries. The 22-year-old Cuban defector wore street clothes and received congratulations from Lookouts teammates in the clubhouse before Sunday's game against Mississippi at AT&T Field.

Puig left Chattanooga as the Lookouts were suffering a 4-2 series-opening loss.

"Is he ready? Who knows, because how many 22-year-olds are ready?" Lookouts manager Jody Reed said after the game. "Clearly he has the talent, and the physical ability is there. It doesn't take much to see that, but there is a lot of experience he needs to bring in.

"The best teacher in this game is the game, so there is going to be some patience and a learning curve, but he has the talent to play in the big leagues for many years."

Two starting outfielders for the Dodgers are battling hamstring injuries. Matt Kemp is on the disabled list, and Carl Crawford was injured Saturday afternoon at Colorado and did not play in Sunday's series finale.

The Dodgers open a series at home tonight against San Diego.

Puig played all three outfield positions for the Lookouts and entered Sunday leading the Southern League with a .313 batting average. The 6-foot-3, 245-pounder also tallied eight home runs and 37 RBIs in his 40 games.

"In the last two or three weeks, he made a lot of progress in a lot of areas of his game," Lookouts hitting coach Orv Franchuk said. "He has a better plan when he goes to the plate and a better idea of how he will be pitched. He's gotten better with his base running. Tool-wise, he is off the chart."

Said fellow outfielder Brian Cavazos-Galvez: "The references to Bo Jackson are accurate."

There were difficult moments for Puig during his time in Chattanooga. He was benched in games both home and away, and he was arrested April 28 for going 97 miles per hour in a 50 mph zone on Amnicola Highway. The arrest occurred two blocks from the Chattanooga Police Department.

In the police incident report, the arresting officer wrote "it took blue lights and multiple siren blasts to get the driver to stop."

"We worked very hard in trying to bring him the experience and the things he needed on the field and off the field in as many areas as we could possibly imagine," Reed said. "He's going to learn how to handle the media, and he's going to learn how to handle the fans."

Puig signed a $42 million, seven-year contract last June with the Dodgers, which included $12 million up front. The organization's top prospect according to MLB.com played 14 games late last season in the high Single-A California League, hitting .327, and he erupted this spring by hitting .526 in 26 big-league exhibition games.

"He had such a good spring, and in the back of his mind, he felt like he should have made that club," Franchuk said. "There were a lot of people who felt that, I heard. He understood after a number of days that he needed to spend time here and get better. He's from a different country and a different culture, and we don't know half of what is going on in his mind."

Jaime Pedroza's two-run homer to right-center with one out in the ninth inning propelled the Braves (31-25) to victory. Rafael Ynoa and Miguel Rojas drove in runs in the second inning to put Chattanooga (26-30) up 2-0, but the Braves pulled even in the eighth on a homer to left by Phil Gosselin.

Pedroza played for the Lookouts during the 2010-11 seasons.

Onelki Garcia (0-2, 3.60) returns from the disabled list to start tonight's 7:15 game for the Lookouts, with Michael Lee (3-4, 4.91) scheduled for the Braves.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-747-6524.

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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