No break-in period needed for 20-year-old Ronald Acuna Jr.
Promoted by the Atlanta Braves from Triple-A, the youngest player in the majors was put in the starting lineup Wednesday night, batting sixth and playing left field against Cincinnati.
“As soon as I hit the field, I felt at home,” Acuna said through an interpreter after Atlanta’s 5-4 victory. “I felt comfortable.”
That came in handy when Acuna got off to a slow start in the minors this year. He was hitting .232 with one home run and two RBIs in 69 at-bats with Triple-A Gwinnett.
Gwinnett manager Damon Berryhill told Acuna about the promotion in Rochester, New York, Acuna said.
“He called me to his hotel room and said I was getting the call to go to the big leagues,” Acuna said. “I’ve been waiting for this moment, but when I got the call, I was in shock. I didn’t know what to think.”
Outfielder Peter Bourjos was designated for assignment to make room for Acuna on the roster.
By pushing back Acuna’s call-up a few weeks past Opening Day, the Braves delayed Acuna’s free-agent eligibility until after the 2024 season. Acuna said he believes the extra time was a benefit.
“I think it helped me develop more and be more prepared,” he said.
Acuna and 21-year-old second baseman Ozzie Albies gives Atlanta the two youngest players in the majors. The outfielder understands that reaching the majors so early is unusual.
“It’s a dream that not every baseball player gets to enjoy,” he said. “It’s something I take pride in.”
One source told ESPN it was to set an example for Alabama players. Jones, a star receiver at Alabama from 2008-10, had spent the day with Crimson Tide players.
Falcons director of football communications Brian Cearns also pointed out in a tweet Tuesday morning that Jones had discussed his relationship with social media on a March 28 episode of “Bama Football Shop Talk.” In the video, Jones discussed needing to be willing to let go of social media.
“At the end of the day, when that social media is gone — you delete social media right now, what you stand for, who are you?” Jones said. “Social media ain’t going to make me.”
There have been whispers about a possible contract situation regarding Jones, but nothing has gone public from Jones’ camp or from the team.
The five-time Pro Bowler signed a five-year, $71.25 million extension ($47 million guaranteed) in August 2015 and still has three years and $34.43 million left on the deal. His average from the deal — $14.25 million — falls below the averages for Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown ($17 million per year), Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans ($16.5 million), Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins ($16.2 million), Kansas City’s Sammy Watkins ($16 million) and Cincinnati’s A.J. Green ($15 million).