INCHEON, Sept. 16 (Yonhap) — Toward the end of a press conference in South Korea on Friday, promoting a Major League Baseball (MLB) event scheduled for the weekend, former Los Angeles Dodgers star Adrian Gonzalez became curious about his one-time teammate, Yasiel Puig.
Puig is currently playing in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), patrolling the right field and batting in the middle of the lineup for the Kiwoom Heroes. But putting aside Puig’s statistics, Gonzalez threw one question back at the assembled reporters: Was Puig behaving?
When told that Puig, the player nicknamed Wild Horse for his eccentricity on and off the field, has stayed out of trouble, Gonzalez smiled and said, “He’s just full of energy.”
“I wasn’t really concerned about him,” Gonzalez said later in a group interview. “I know he’s doing fine. I always like to make fun of him. We are really good friends, and it’s always good to poke at him.”
Gonzalez, who debuted with the Texas Rangers in 2004 and played for the Dodgers from 2012 to 2017, said he was making plans to meet with Puig for dinner during his stay in South Korea. Gonzalez, who had 317 home runs in 1,929 big league games, is one of four former MLB stars in Incheon, about 30 kilometers west of Seoul, for the “FTX MLB Home Run Derby X.”
Through Wednesday, Puig was batting .274/.364/.460 with 17 home runs and 64 RBIs in 113 games — fine numbers in a vacuum but below expectations placed on the former National League All-Star.
It didn’t matter much to Gonzalez, though.
“He’s here, playing really well lately for the KBO,” Gonzalez said. “And I am happy to see his success.”
Gonzalez also has some Korean connection from his playing days. He was teammates with South Korean pitcher Park Chan-ho with the Rangers and spent his entire Dodger career with another Korean hurler, Ryu Hyun-jin.
Among South Korean fans, Gonzalez had a reputation for always coming up with a clutch hit, a home run or a great defensive play at first whenever Ryu started. Gonzalez said he was able to have success in Ryu’s games because of the way the left-hander worked on the mound.
“It had to do with the way he pitched as well,” Gonzalez said. “He just got the ball on the mound and threw strikes. Whenever you have a pitcher that is aggressive, pitches fast, keeps the pace moving, it keeps you in the game and keeps things moving. So it allows you to kind of stay focused more. And so I think the success comes from his ability to pitch so well and throw strikes and keep the game moving.”
Though Gonzalez’s last major league season came in 2018, he played in the Mexican league last year at age 39. After retiring earlier this year, Gonzalez has been doing some television work for Dodgers games while keeping his options open for his post-playing career.
“Not really focusing on doing one or the other,” he said. “I’ve submitted my name for a few possible managerial positions that have opened up just to see if there’s interest there. But there isn’t, ‘This is what I want to do.’ I do want to keep myself in the sport and being involved in baseball in one way or another.”