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Yasiel Puig says Cleveland Indians have World Series potential

On Thursday, right fielder Yasiel Puig will make his debut as a member of the Cleveland Indians.

CLEVELAND -- With his freshly dyed red mohawk matching his new Cleveland Indians t-shirt and shorts, Yasiel Puig looked right at home sitting in the media room adjacent to his new clubhouse.

That is, except for the customized Cincinnati Reds flip-flops he still had on his feet.

"Oh," Puig said when it was pointed out to him that he was still walking around in his former team's footwear. "You won't be seeing these again."

Despite his flip-flop faux pas, the 28-year-old slugger seemed nothing less than excited to be making his Indians debut, which will come on Thursday night against the Houston Astros. It's been a whirlwind 48 hours for Puig, who Cleveland acquired in a 3-way trade with the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday -- agreeing to the deal just moments before the former All-Star was involved in a brawl with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Shortly after being ejected from his final game with the Reds, Puig learned he had just been traded to Cleveland. At that point, all he could do was chuckle.

"I started laughing," admitted Puig, who is appealing the 3-game suspension he received for the fight. "I didn't want to get too excited because I needed to respect my old team and we lost that night and we were coming out from a fight. But I was excited ... this is a part of the job and now we're going to be in a better place and now we're here."

Credit: AP
Cincinnati Reds' Yasiel Puig gestures as he crosses home plate after hitting a two-run home run off Colorado Rockies relief pitcher Jairo Diaz in the sixth inning of a baseball game Saturday, July 13, 2019, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

It also wasn't lost on Puig that his chances of returning to the postseason just improved.

The Los Angeles Dodgers' all-time leader in postseason games, Puig's teams won division titles in each of six seasons at the Major League level. The right-handed hitter's playoff streak, however, would have been put in jeopardy had he remained with the Reds, who are currently 6.5 games back in the National League Central and 6.0 games back in the N.L. Wild Card race.

Cleveland, meanwhile, appears primed to extend its own postseason streak to a fourth straight year. Entering Thursday's matchup with the Astros, the Indians hold the American League's top Wild Card spot and trail the Minnesota Twins by just 2.5 games in the A.L. Central.

Puig, for his part, sees even bigger possibilities in his new team's future.

"We’re going to fight to do the best we can, like a family and like a team, together and win the championship because this team has potential and good players to go to the World Series," he said.

Credit: AP
Cincinnati Reds' Yasiel Puig prepares to bat in the fourth inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Sunday, July 21, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

If the Indians are going to do that, Puig is going to have to be a big reason why, as evidenced by his role as the team's cleanup hitter on Thursday night. In acquiring Puig and Franmil Reyes prior to Wednesday's Trade Deadline, Cleveland tripled the number of players on its roster who have hit at least 20 home runs this season, adding some much-needed pop to a lineup that was otherwise lacking in just that.

A free-agent-to-be, the opportunity Puig has ahead of him is twofold, as he's hoping to maximize his value before hitting the open market for the first time in his MLB career. Asked about his impending free agent status, Puig insisted he isn't putting any additional pressure on himself, opting instead to focus on the task at hand for the Tribe.

But first, he needs to find some new flip-flops.