Reports of Yasiel Puig's perilous journey from Cuba to Major League Baseball have given Dodgers manager Don Mattingly more cause for concern regarding his budding superstar.
An ESPN The Magazine feature reported Puig has received death threats from human traffickers who facilitated his 2012 defection from Cuba to Mexico. During his defection, Puig reportedly was held against his will on an island off the coast of Mexico until a rival gang, hired by a Miami businessman, staged a late-night raid and safely ferried Puig to Mexico City. Shortly after being granted residency by the Mexican government, he landed a $12 million signing bonus with the Dodgers. Puig reportedly paid 20 percent of his total contract value to the Florida group that brought him to the U.S.
Dodgers front-office officials have declined to comment on the details surrounding Puig's defection or reported death threats, but the team has provided a full-time security detail to follow Puig since his promotion to the majors last June.
On Thursday, Mattingly expressed his concerns for Puig, who finished second in last season's National League Rookie of the Year balloting.
"If you care about Yasiel, you worry about it," Mattingly said. "There's some serious stuff that he has to deal with. I think you have to worry about it if you care about him as a person. You worry about what he's going through."
Mattingly said he was unaware of Puig's plight until general manager Ned Coletti tipped him off to the magazine story on Tuesday.
"If it was news to anyone above me, I don't know that, but it was definitely news to me," Mattingly said. "I think it was news to anybody in our clubhouse. I know a lot of people check in on Yasiel that know a lot more than I do. I'm the manager of the baseball team. I'm not running the whole organization. I'm not the president or ownership."
Puig, who refuses to discuss details of his journey from Cuba to the U.S., briefly touched on his state of mind following the Dodgers' 2-1 win over the Giants Thursday night in San Francisco.
"I feel normal," Puig said. "I'm focusing on baseball and I'm giving my best for my team so things go well on the field with the preparation I've had, so those things that are happening don't torment me."
Puig's agent, Adam Katz, released a statement on Puig’s behalf on Wednesday.
“I’m aware of the recent articles and news accounts. I understand that people are curious and have questions, but I will have no comment on this subject. I’m represented on this matter, and I’m only focused on being a productive teammate and helping the Dodgers win games,” Puig said in the statement.