Braves manager Brian Snitker got a text message from Ronald Acuna on Thursday afternoon.
Give Ender Inciarte an assist for the translation.
The message: I’m 100 percent ready to play.
That came as quite a surprise after Acuna was forced to leave Wednesday night’s game after he was hit on the left elbow with the first pitch of his first at-bat by the Marlins’ Jose Urena. Acuna blistered the Marlins during the series. He led off the first three games with a home run, part of his streak of homers in five consecutive games and eight in eight games.
X-rays after the game were negative, and a CT scan came back normal. The Braves listed their 20-year-old sensation as day-to-day. However, he was back in the lineup, batting first and playing left field, as the Braves started a four-game series with the Rockies on Thursday.
“I texted him after the game and this morning again to check that he was OK,” said Inciarte, who was in the video room when Acuna was hit but quickly bounded his way to the field as a near brawl broke out. “First thing he said was ‘I’m ready to go.’ I said I don’t make the lineup. You have to tell that to the manager. He said ‘Give me his phone number. I need to tell him right away.’ I told him what to say. He’s excited. He feels good. He is ready play. Hopefully, he is going to continue to help us.”
Urena was suspended six games and fined an undisclosed amount by Major League Baseball on Thursday. The suspension starts Friday. Also, Braves first-base coach Eric Young received a one-game suspension and a fine for his part in the on-field confrontation. He served his penalty Thursday.
Acuna, along with Snitker and Inciarte, said Thursday that Urena’s 97 mph fastball was thrown with the intention of hitting the player. Snitker and Urena were ejected after the incident.
Acuna said he was surprised he was thrown at.
“Typically I was expecting a pitch either middle-in or middle-out,” Acuna said through a team interpreter. “That was where my thought process was at. Obviously, that didn’t happen. It seemed kind of intentional because it wasn’t where I was expecting it at the time.”
Acuna was pressed on whether he thought he was struck on purpose.
“Like I said before, I’ve never seen a pitcher throw a pitch like that with that velocity before. That is where I will leave it,” he said.
Acuna said he composed himself as he took first base when the game resumed. As he did, he took off a shin pad and appeared to toss it in the direction of Urena.
“At the time, it hurt,” Acuna said. “I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to keep playing. I felt a little dizzy at the time. I felt like I was able to compose myself and start walking over there. In passing, he asked me if I was OK. I guess I took a little bit exception to it because it felt like the pitch was intentional at the time. So, to me, baseball is a man’s game, and it’s over now.”
The incident once again brought up what is considered an unwritten rule of baseball – hitting or at least knocking down a player who is having great success against a team. Snitker was succinct in his thought about such a notion.
“I don’t buy that at all,” Snitker said. “I will not ever begrudge someone for doing the job. You don’t want him to hit homers, pitch better. Don’t throw fastballs down the middle.”
Inciarte was clear that Acuna did nothing wrong and never showed disrespect to the Marlins or Urena. He said he spoke to several Marlins players, which he did not name, during the melee who were just as confused as the Braves about why Urena found it necessary to throw at Acuna.
“I don’t think it should be like that,” Inciarte said of the unwritten rule. “One thing is doing good and disrespecting the other team. But he’s not. He’s playing the game right. He’s playing hard. He’s talented. What are you going to do, hit him his entire life? What else can you do? He’s been playing hard. He’s running the bases hard. He’s not staring at anybody. That’s why everybody got mad because we didn’t think that was the right thing to do. A lot of times, you might be watching the game and you might understand what happened. This time, I didn’t. Everybody was very upset.”
Acuna took the field for the top of the second. He said he came out because he couldn’t close his glove. That wasn’t an issue a day later after he was checked out by the team’s training staff Thursday before taking batting practice and was declared fit to play.
The Braves and Marlins play again later this month with a four-game series Aug. 23-26 in Miami.