SAN FRANCISCO — Yasiel Puig is anything but shy.
The Los Angeles Dodgers rookie is happy to regale teammate Juan Uribe and Spanish-language broadcaster Jaime Jarrin with stories about his days in Cuba, as he did before a game against the San Francisco Giants last weekend.
He'll crack up his English teacher and confidant Tim Bravo with jokes, funny faces and moments of wonderment, like his delight at discovering the multiple colors and flavors of Gatorade available when he first got to Dodger Stadium.
"He's not quiet. He's pretty outgoing," manager Don Mattingly said.
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What he won't do is share with the American public those poignant, human moments of his remarkable journey from Cuban defector to the most talked-about figure in the major leagues today.
After he was named one of the five Final Vote candidates for the National League All-Star team Saturday — a day he finally showed offensive vulnerability by going 0-for-4 with four strikeouts — Puig declined to talk to news reporters. It continued a pattern of shunning media requests and refusing to talk to reporters before games.
Puig, 22, was flooded with media demands while becoming the first rookie to be named player of the month in his first month in the majors, banging out 44 hits in June for the second-most prolific debut in history after Joe DiMaggio's 48 hits in May 1936.
Knowing Puig's profile only figures to grow, the Dodgers intervened Sunday. After a morning meeting with general manager Ned Colletti and Jarrin, Puig committed to making himself available after games. And after his leadoff single in the ninth inning sparked a go-ahead, three-run rally in a 4-1 win against the Giants, Puig relented and fielded questions — though not until after a heated exchange with Uribe, who prodded him to cooperate.
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"I struck out four times (Saturday) and twice more today, and maybe tomorrow I'll strike out another 10," Puig said, "but if my team wins, everything's fine."
Colletti points out Puig's transition from the anonymity of the minors to instant stardom in the majors has been "from zero to one thousand."
And so Puig might be faced with making adjustments, just as pitchers are starting to adjust to him.
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Should Puig earn a spot in the All-Star Game in New York on July 16, his biggest challenge might be the media obligations that come with publicizing the midsummer classic.
"It's hard to get used to it," Puig told USA TODAY Sports in Spanish during a rare one-on-one interview. "I don't pay attention anymore to what the press may write or say. I don't really like the press.
"I don't like to be interviewed so often, because the accomplishments are not just mine but the whole team's. It's nine of us giving our best on the field, and my teammates also deserve to be asked questions."
The arm's-length approach has added to the mystery surrounding a player about whom little was known before he signed a stunning seven-year, $42 million contract with the Dodgers on June 29, 2012.
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Yasiel Puig is one of five candidates for the National League All-Star Final Vote. Cary Edmondson, USA TODAY Sports Fullscreen
A Yahoo! Sports story this month detailed the hardships Puig and others endured in April 2012 during a failed attempt at escaping Cuba, though none of the information — except a confirmation the facts were accurate — came from Puig.
The promising outfielder ran afoul of Cuban authorities and was suspended for the 2011-12 season of the island's top league. While some think the suspension was in response to failed defections, the exact reasons remain unclear, and Puig refuses to discuss them. He finally made it out via Mexico in spring 2012.
He played 23 games in the low minors last summer and was sent to Class AA Chattanooga (Tenn.) despite batting .521 in spring training. He earned a call-up and became the catalyst of a team that was languishing in last place at 23-32 when he arrived June 3. The $216 million Dodgers, perhaps baseball's most notorious underachievers the first two months of the season — partly because of injuries — have gone 19-13 since Puig joined them.
Despite going 5-for-21 over his last five games, Puig is batting .409 with eight homers and a 1.114 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.
His golden sombrero of strikeouts Saturday might be a sign that advance scouts have finally tapped into his weaknesses — an overaggressive approach that has produced 41.5% of swings at pitches outside the strike zone being one of them — but hitting coach Mark McGwire said Puig had already shown the ability to adjust.
"His bat is always in the zone," McGwire said. "His plate coverage is incredible, and it's very rare to see that, especially from a young hitter, let alone a first-year major leaguer. And what I love the most is he holds his bat in his fingertips. To me that's just pure strength. It's quickness. He can pretty much do anything he wants with the bat."
Catcher A.J. Ellis said Puig's relentless hustle and enthusiasm have changed the clubhouse culture.
"It's infectious to see youth and that talent," Ellis said. "You see the joy and passion he plays the game with, it kind of reminds you of why you play this game."
Ellis is among the Dodgers who sing the praises of Puig's kinetic personality, one that's reflected in his daredevil baserunning and exuberant outfield play.
Last week against the Colorado Rockies, Puig challenged Gold Glove left fielder Carlos Gonzalez to stretch a single into a double, then scored from second when Todd Helton briefly muffed a groundout to first. Three days later against the Giants, Puig showcased his bazooka arm while trying in vain to nab speedy Andres Torres tagging from second to third on a fly to deep right.
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For now, those displays speak much more eloquently than Puig himself.
While many Cuban players avoid talking about how they escaped the communist regime for fear of reprisal against their families, Puig's manner has been more distant and at times curt.
Asked who he is besides a ballplayer, Puig responded, "Besides a ballplayer, I'm a ballplayer. I don't do anything else other than play baseball and dedicate myself to baseball."
As for what he enjoys doing off the field, Puig said, "I go to my (hotel) room and I watch movies, soaps, and sometimes I go to my teammates' rooms to chat and share the good times we're enjoying. And in Los Angeles I take my dogs (English bulldogs Jacob and Princess) out to walk."
The one mode of public expression Puig relies on regularly requires few words. He's an avid Instagram poster, with more than 34,000 followers able to check out his burgeoning collection of portrait photos, action shots and pictures with friends.
A posting from Saturday references the one-year anniversary of the day Puig arrived in the USA. Shortly after that, he met Bravo, a special education teacher from Las Cruces, N.M., who played college ball with Dodgers vice president of amateur scouting Logan White.
With school out for the summer, Bravo, 51, travels with the team and shares an apartment in downtown L.A. with Puig, whom he guards like one of his six children.
"He makes me laugh all day, from the time he wakes up to the time he goes to bed," Bravo said. "He's got the energy of 10 people."
Hyper-energetic play has been one of Puig's compelling traits, but it can prove a double-edged sword. Wednesday in Denver, Puig made a sprawling catch against the right-field fence at Coors Field and bruised his left hip, forcing him to leave the game later. He has remained in the lineup since then, though.
Giants veteran infielder Marco Scutaro said that kind of frenetic style is not sustainable, especially over a 162-game season.
"Ask Grady Sizemore," Scutaro said, citing the oft-injured former star outfielder for the Cleveland Indians. "Your competitive spirit prompts you to do everything possible to make the play. But you also learn when you get banged around and you miss a month, miss two months, have to spend time in rehab. The blows teach you."
Mattingly said Puig had been an avid learner, rarely repeating mistakes like missing the cutoff man and showing some semblance of control on the basepaths.
In that same vein, Colletti thinks the highly marketable rookie — whom the team promoted in a ticket package for $66 — will learn to handle his media duties and present his better side to the public. His No. 66 jersey was the No. 1 seller the past week, according to Fanatics.com, an online retailer.
And even when Puig is lacking PR polish, Dodgers fans have embraced him in much the way they fell for Manny Ramirez in the halcyon Mannywood days of 2008.
"The performance has been dramatic, like Manny's was dramatic," Colletti said. "And I think people who love sports and who watch sports are taken by that."