GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig finally is getting to work with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Two weeks after signing a record seven-year, $42 million contract with the Dodgers, the 21-year-old slugger worked out at Los Angeles’ spring training complex at Camelback Ranch. Puig defected from Cuba in early June after several failed attempts.
He’s excited the ordeal is over and that it’s time to play baseball.
“I never doubted that I would get the opportunity,” Puig said through an interpreter. “The surprise was that it is with the Dodgers. It is great to finally be here and to start my career, work with the guys and work on a common goal which is to get to the big leagues.”
The 6-foot-3, 250 pound Puig was considered the fastest player in Cuba and the top prospect in the country’s premier league. He batted .330 with 17 home runs, 47 RBIs and 78 runs scored in 327 at-bats with the Cienfuegos Elefantes in the 2010-11 season.
“Like they say in the big leagues I am a five-tool player,” Puig said. “I have what it takes and do it with a lot of love. I am going to bring my best stuff to the Dodgers. I don’t want to disappoint the Dodgers or the fans.”
The right-handed batter was banned from playing in the 2011-12 season after again being caught trying to flee the country.
Prior to Thursday’s workout he had only participated in baseball activities once in the past five months, had not faced any pitching and had only held a bat once over that span. Thursday he hit in the batting cage and participated in fielding and throwing drills for about an hour in the 105-degree heat.
The contract Puig signed is the largest ever for a Cuban amateur. Despite the salary, the Dodgers are not in any hurry to bring Puig to the majors. He will begin his pro career in the Arizona Rookie League as soon as he gets in shape and the proper paper work is completed.
“We didn’t sign him with the hope that if the Dodgers are at the half way mark and they need hitting or if they need an outfielder, we didn’t sign him to be that guy to come in right now,” Dodgers Assistant General Manager Logan White said. “This is a long term thing with him.”
There were many teams interested in Puig especially the White Sox and Cubs. According to the baseball’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Dodgers had to sign him by July 2. After that deadline teams could only sign international prospects for $2.9 million and most likely Puig would not have signed with Los Angeles.
“There was a lot of competition for him down there. In this business there is inherent risk in signing international players,” White said. “The level of baseball he played in Cuba was really good and his numbers were really good. When I look at everything factored in, I think the risk is really small. We are really excited about the potential of him being a really good player in the future. I am extremely happy with the player we got.”
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.