Braves star Ronald Acuña: Freddie Freeman comments ‘blown out of proportion’

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Braves star Ronald Acuña says he won’t miss departed Freddie Freeman.In an Instagram Live interview Wednesday night, Braves star outfielder Ronald Acuña said he won’t miss departed icon Freddie Freeman.“Me? Nothing,” Acuña said when asked what he would miss about Freeman, according to a translation from Spanish-speaking journalist Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times.When you come up as a rookie, there’s always somebody who wants to stick it to you. You come with your swagger from the minor leagues... A lot of people look at it as wrong. , Acuña said in part, per Castillo.But at 12:50 a.m. Thursday, in response to a tweet about some of his Instagram Live comments, Acuña wrote in all caps: “I NEVER SAY THAT.”

Hours before the Braves opened the 2022 season against the Reds at Truist Park, star outfielder Ronald Acuña downplayed comments he made on Instagram Live about departed icon Freddie Freeman.

In an interview with Dominican journalist Yancen Pujols on Wednesday night, Acuña said he would not miss Freeman.

“Me? Nothing,” Acuña said when asked what he would miss about Freeman, according to a translation from Spanish-speaking journalist Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times.

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Acuña touched on a number of topics in the interview. At one point, he referenced an incident in 2018 when, according to him, unnamed Braves veterans did not like how he applied his eye black and rubbed it off with a towel. During the interview, Acuña said he and Freeman had conflicts, but he didn’t appear to mention Freeman specifically in the story about the veterans.

“When you come up as a rookie, there’s always somebody who wants to stick it to you,” Acuña said, per Castillo. “You come with your swagger from the minor leagues. You do your eye black ... your sunglasses, your hat a little crooked. A lot of people look at it as wrong, and I don’t look at it as wrong because it’s part of the game. So, a lot of veterans stuck it to me when I came up in 2018. A lot of them stuck it to me.”

Asked Thursday afternoon about his comments, Acuña, through interpreter Franco Garcia, said: “To be honest, I think it was just exaggerated and blown out of proportion by the media. We talked about just some things that occurred during the 2018 season, and I just think it was just blown out of proportion.”

Did Acuña and Freeman experience conflict between them?

“Not really,” the outfielder said. “But that’s all in the past, right? That’s something that took place a long time ago, and we’ve all moved past it, and I’m over it. Instead of talking about the reigning world champions, we’re here talking about these things.”

Said Braves manager Brian Snitker when asked if he was aware of any conflict between the players: “No. If there was, that’s between those two.”

When asked if he regretted saying he wouldn’t miss Freeman, Acuña said, “How can I miss someone if they signed with another team?” He said their relationship was “totally” normal after the incident.

“Again, it was one incident that was blown out of proportion,” he said. “The one thing that I referenced during that interview was what happened there, but after that, we had a complete normal relationship as teammates.”

Freeman was asked about the comments on MLB Network.

“I saw the eye black situation,” Freeman said. “When you put on a Braves uniform in that organization, there’s organizational rules. You don’t cover the ‘A’ with sunglasses, you don’t wear ear rings, you have your hair a certain length, you wear uniform during BP, you don’t have eye black coming down across your whole face. Those are just organizational things. I guess I was one of the older guys that did have to enforce those things in the clubhouse, but when you put on a Braves uniform, those are what happens there.

“I didn’t view it as any friction or any clashes or anything like that. I loved Ronald, I still love Ronald. I’m going to miss Ronald and my family is going to miss Ronald. I can’t wait for him to get on the field again because the game of baseball needs him.”

The outfielder said Freeman wasn’t overbearing and didn’t control him. “He lived his life, I lived my life,” Acuña said.

Overall, Acuña said he doesn’t regret anything because he simply answered a question, and “that got totally blown out of proportion.”

Acuña’s agent, Peter Greenberg of Rep 1 Baseball, declined comment when reached by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday morning.

At 12:50 a.m. Thursday, in response to a tweet about some of his Instagram Live comments - Acuña wrote in all caps: “I NEVER SAY THAT.”

Acuña spoke to reporters before the game, but didn’t participate in pregame introductions.

Acuña, who is working to return after tearing his ACL last summer, is in Atlanta for the Braves’ ring ceremony on Saturday but will travel to Florida on Sunday. The Braves are taking it week by week with Acuña, but the team is loosely targeting April 25 for Acuña to begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Gwinnett. That is a general plan that could change.

When he returns to the Braves, he’ll be both a designated hitter and an outfielder. The Braves aren’t yet sure when he’ll be able to be a full-time outfielder.

In 2018, Acuña won National League Rookie of the Year after posting a .917 on-base plus slugging percentage and hitting 26 home runs.

In March, Freeman signed a six-year, $162 contract with the Dodgers. For the first time since 2011, the Braves will have a new first baseman on opening day.

The Braves offered Freeman a five-year contract worth $140 million, according to a person with knowledge of the situation, but the sides did not come to an agreement. The Braves soon pivoted and traded for Matt Olson, which signaled Freeman’s departure.

Acuña in 2019 agreed to an eight-year, $100 million contract extension with the Braves and is signed through 2026. He tore his ACL last summer and is expected to be back in the first week of May.

Acuña said the incident is in the past, and he has moved on from it. He said he is solely focused on finishing his recovery and joining the team.

“Again, there’s nothing to say (to Freeman) because I was just referencing an incident that occurred in 2018,” Acuña said. “I didn’t disrespect him, I don’t have no ill will toward him, I didn’t say anything to him about that.”

Olson settling in nicely

Matt Olson had been to The Battery Atlanta to watch football games on TV, so he knew how to get there from his home.

On Thursday, he went for another reason: opening day.

“It was a little different waking up in my own bed, coming here,” he said.

He said he expected his parents, his wife, his wife’s parents and some friends to be at Truist Park to watch him Thursday night. He said it would be different to have a contingent on hand.

“Obviously not many people were coming out to Oakland,” he said. “It’ll be cool.”

Olson has seemingly settled in nicely with his new team.

“About as good as you could’ve under that circumstance and that situation,” Snitker said. “He handled it like the person that he is and the professional that he is. It’s not easy. That wasn’t easy. Like I told him, I think he was probably in a good place in his career for this to happen to him. He came in, assimilated in. He was one of the guys as soon as he walked through that door.”

Strider makes the team

Right-hander Spencer Strider is on an opening-day roster for the first time in his career. One reason he’s exciting: He can he hit triple digits on the radar gun.

Asked how Strider took the good news, Snitker said: “I mean, it wasn’t total just jaw-dropping. Those guys can do the math. When we’re sitting in there and you’re cutting things down, and I know there’s some that are big moments. It was a big moment, I’m sure, the first calls that he made -- especially making the rapid rise that he had last year, to do that. Like you guys, they start counting the bodies that are left and all that kind of thing and say, ‘Wow, maybe I do have a chance.’”

In 2021, Strider went from Low-A to the majors. The Braves drafted him in the fourth round in 2020.