Ronald Acuna on sidelined Ozzie Albies: ‘Needless to say, I miss him’

Atlanta Braves' Ozzie Albies is congratulated by Ronald Acuna Jr. (13) after hitting a two-run home run against the New York Mets during the seventh inning of a baseball game Sunday, July 26, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Credit: Adam Hunger

Credit: Adam Hunger

Ronald Acuna has caught fire lately, but he’s done it without his best friend and exciting teammate, Ozzie Albies.

The Braves placed Albies on the 10-day injured list last week because of a bone bruise in his right wrist. He had been trying to play through it, but his discomfort and underwhelming performance eventually forced him off the field. Albies has been resting before resuming baseball activities.

“I’m sure he’s (progressing),” Braves manager Brian Snitker said Monday. “He’s not doing anything other than getting treatment. We don’t really know – he hasn’t swung a bat yet or anything like that, to my knowledge. We’ll see where he’s at in this next week.”

Acuna, meanwhile, has distanced himself from a poor start and looks like the player that many, including teammate Freddie Freeman, predicted as the 2020 National League MVP.

The true coming-out party was Sunday, when Acuna had five hits across two seven-inning games, helping the Braves sweep a doubleheader against the Phillies.

“Nothing feels different,” Acuna said via team interpreter Franco Garcia. “The best part was I was able to help the team win. Nothing is different. I don’t feel that way. I go out with the same mentality and try to have fun and enjoy myself. That’s when I have that success.”

The 22-year-old went 5-for-8 with three homers, five RBIs and three runs scored across the 14 innings. He raised his average from .214 entering the day to .266. He bumped his OPS from .710 to .913. Acuna had more homers and RBIs on the day than he’d had collectively over the first 15 games (one and four, respectively).

Unfortunately, Acuna couldn’t enjoy his showing with his close friend Albies, though the two have remained in constant contact. Acuna and Albies have forged a tight relationship over the past five years. The two have been playing video games together after every game, Acuna said.

“Brothers are going to support each other in the good times and the bad times,” Acuna said. “Regardless of whatever is happening, ever since we met in 2015, I feel like he’s supported me and had my back. I’m always going to have his back, no matter what. I’ve definitely kept in touch with him. I’ve been calling him after every game, no matter what, asking him how he’s doing, how he’s feeling and if he’s going to be back next week. Obviously, I’m anticipating it with much anxiety. Needless to say, I miss him.”

Other items from Monday:

» Left-hander Cole Hamels still hasn’t thrown off a mound, Snitker said. The team is thinking he will “in the near future.” Hamels’ absence has been disappointing for several reasons. Even in the best-case scenario, the Braves won’t see much from their big offseason rotation addition.

The 36-year-old, who suffered oblique injuries in recent seasons, was stalled in spring training by shoulder inflammation. The team was optimistic he would be ready after the rebooted camp last month, but left triceps tendinitis delayed Hamels again.

The clock is ticking on Hamels, who’s running out of time to pitch this season. Nevertheless, Snitker said the Braves are holding out hope he’ll eventually see the field.

“We are (hopeful he’ll pitch),” Snitker said. “I was talking to (trainer) George (Poulis) about that today. I think there’s still hope that before the season is over we can see him. Until you get off the mound, you don’t know. Until you get off there, start getting down the hill and turning balls loose, that’s a whole different animal. Throwing live (batting practices). There’s still a lot of boxes to check before we do.”

» In other starter news, Mike Foltynewicz has continued working out at the alternate training site in Gwinnett, trying to rebuild his velocity.

“He’s doing a long-toss program trying to get his strength back,” Snitker said.

The Braves designated Foltynewicz for assignment after his first start, which was disastrous. He stayed in the organization and was assigned to the team’s alternate camp. He’s included in the Braves’ 60-man pool but is off the 40-man roster.

His only outing came after two exhibition opportunities in which Foltynewicz had shown declining velocity. His fastball hovered around 89 mph in his latest start, peaking at 92, which was an eye-opening difference from the roughly 95 mph he averaged last season.

There’s little reason to believe Foltynewicz will work his way back into the Braves’ plans anytime soon. Their sole focus with the right-hander is on his strength-building program.

» New slugger Marcell Ozuna continues to draw praise. Snitker and his players rave about Ozuna nearly daily, citing a lovable personality and remarkable baseball IQ. Ozuna has three homers, four doubles and seven RBIs in 17 games.

“The more I’m around him, the more I like him,” Snitker said. “As a person, he’s sharp. He doesn’t miss anything. He’s a very intelligent player. He’s a pro. He’s been good for our club. He’s been good for our young players. All he wants to do is compete and win. I’ve been very (impressed).”