LOS ANGELES — Yasiel Puig and the Dodgers feverishly campaigned to get the outfielder into the All-Star Game via MLB’s Final Vote, only to come up short.
But, according to Puig’s manager, the 22-year-old Cuban was more emotional when he found out he was starting in center field for the first time than when he heard the voting results.
“I thought he was going to hug me and kiss me,” Manager Don Mattingly said of informing Puig of his center field start Thursday against the Colorado Rockies.
Puig was widely expected to win the voting competition because of his rapid ascent to nationwide popularity since being called up to the majors June 3.
Instead, he came in second behind Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, who received a record 19.7 million votes.
Puig’s vote total was not released, although MLB did announce that he received more than the previous record of 15.6 million votes.
“I’m happy with it,” Puig said through a translator Thursday. “It’s not what I expected for the team and for the city, but you just have to keep on playing.”
Puig could still make the game as a replacement for an injured player, but that is unlikely.
San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy is in charge of replacing any players who withdraw, and he has repeatedly said he does not find Puig worthy with such limited experience.
In 35 games entering play Thursday, Puig was hitting .396 with eight home runs and 19 RBI. He will have played in a maximum of 39 games before Tuesday’s All-Star Game. The previous low for an All-Star was Joe DiMaggio’s 57 games in 1936.
Most around baseball have agreed that Puig demonstrates All-Star potential.
“If he continues to do what he’s been doing over a full year, then we’re going to see a lot of Yasiel,” Mattingly said. “I think that’s the thing that should be remembered: If you’re going to be an All-Star then you’re going to be able to continue to do it. How good you are is measured over time.”
Puig has been criticized in recent days because of his on-field aggression, with Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero telling reporters he hopes Puig’s teammates will instruct Puig to show more respect to opponents.
“He’s got so much talent, it’d be really bad if he wasted it doing the stupid things that he’s doing,” Montero said.
Asked about Montero’s comments, Puig said all he worries about is the view his teammates have of him.
“Everyone’s entitled to their opinion,” Puig said. “I’m going to play my game the way I play my game. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to.”
Puig said he and his teammates are “more reserved” than the Diamondbacks.
“We don’t talk about the style that Montero and (Arizona outfielder Gerardo) Parra play,” Puig said. “We worry about ourselves.”
Puig also disputed a USA Today report that had him spurning ex-Dodger Luis Gonzalez during batting practice this week in Arizona. Gonzalez, of Cuban heritage, reportedly attempted to introduce himself and was rebuffed.
“That wasn’t true,” Puig said. “I shook his hand and I said hello, just like the rest of my teammates did.”
The Dodgers have just one All-Star, left-hander Clayton Kershaw. First baseman Adrian Gonzalez also lost in the Final Vote.
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