Braves’ Ronald Acuña excited to represent country in World Baseball Classic

Braves right fielder Ronald Acuna takes practice swings as he waits his turn for batting practice during Braves spring training at CoolToday Park, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023, in North Port, Fla.. (Hyosub Shin /



Braves right fielder Ronald Acuna takes practice swings as he waits his turn for batting practice during Braves spring training at CoolToday Park, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023, in North Port, Fla.. (Hyosub Shin /

NORTH PORT, Fla. — For a bit, it seemed like Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña would not play in the World Baseball Classic.

Now he’s officially locked into the event, and one can tell he’s excited to put on Team Venezuela’s jersey.

“It means a lot,” Acuña said through interpreter Franco García. “It means everything to me. It means the same as putting on a Braves jersey every day. And to be able to put that jersey on for the first time and represent my people, it means a lot.”

At first, the Braves’ medical team thought it would be safer for Acuña, who tore his ACL in 2021 and experienced lingering effects last year, to skip the WBC. The team eventually changed its mind.

“It was the best,” Acuña said of the moment the Braves gave him permission to play. “It was just a moment of pure joy with my family. I was obviously hoping, and concerned I wasn’t going to be able to represent my country, and so I was really glad that everything worked out the way it did.”

Until he retires, Miguel Cabrera might still be the face of Venezuelan baseball, despite no longer being in his prime. But Acuña soon will take over his title, and probably already has in younger circles.

A superstar outfielder, Acuña is incredibly talented and plays with flash. He hits for power and is fast. He can make any play in the outfield. He has a cannon for an arm.

He has all the ingredients to be one of the sport’s faces – not just in Venezuela, but around the world.

In early March, he will leave to join Team Venezuela, which will play in Pool D, considered to be the toughest in the tournament. The Dominican Republic – the most talented team, on paper, in the tournament – and Puerto Rico are in the group.

“The truth is, we have a good team, (and) the other countries have a really good team, so I think it’s going to be a really good competition,” Acuña said. “We’re gonna have a great mix of young players and veterans, so I’m just really excited to get going.”

For Braves fans, the best Acuña news may be that he’s feeling healthy at the start of spring training.

“No limitations, and I’m really happy to say that,” he said. “I’m really happy to say that I feel 100%. Obviously since 2021 when I was injured, I couldn’t say that I felt 100%. Now there’s no more excuses.”

Jiménez on track to be ready for opening day

In September, the Tigers placed Joe Jiménez on the injured list with a right lumbar spine strain.

He eventually had an offseason back procedure – before the Braves traded for him. The Braves knew about this.

Asked about Jiménez, manager Brian Snitker said: “He’s fine, yeah.” It doesn’t seem like there’s any concern about Jiménez being ready for opening day.

The power righty has been throwing bullpen sessions and, per Snitker, “looks good.”

Pitch-clock adjustment

The Braves already are preparing for the pitch timer by placing them around the facility, including at the bullpen mounds. The Braves put clocks behind the fence, where pitchers can see them.

“We’re going to expose them to it as much as we can,” Snitker said.

What will be helpful: Teams will use the new rules when spring training games begin.

“I’m glad that we’re starting out doing that (in spring training) so we can live it,” Snitker said. “You can read about it, but I think until we get out there and actually see it happening and live it, then things will be better.”

Extra-innings rule

One rule won’t be an adjustment.

MLB will continue with its polarizing extra-innings rule. In regular-season games, a runner will be placed at second base to start each inning in extras.

“We’ve been living it the last few years,” Snitker said. “That is normal now, really. I don’t think it’s going to be that big of a culture shock, continuing to have it.”