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Acuna adds to hot-hitting spring with 1st HR

Special to MLB.com

TAMPA, Fla. -- Outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr., the Braves' No. 1 prospect, showed another glimpse of his enormous offensive potential on Friday vs. the Yankees.

In his first at-bat against Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka, Acuna blasted a laser two-run home run to right-center field for his first homer of the spring. Acuna finished his afternoon 3-for-3 with a stolen base in Atlanta's 5-4 loss.

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TAMPA, Fla. -- Outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr., the Braves' No. 1 prospect, showed another glimpse of his enormous offensive potential on Friday vs. the Yankees.

In his first at-bat against Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka, Acuna blasted a laser two-run home run to right-center field for his first homer of the spring. Acuna finished his afternoon 3-for-3 with a stolen base in Atlanta's 5-4 loss.

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"I was excited to face such a tough pitcher as Tanaka," Acuna said through a translator. "Unfortunately, we weren't able to win but I'll continue to do what I can do, keep doing my best and try and help the team win."

Even his veteran teammates were in awe after Acuna crushed the tailing 92-mph fastball on a 1-1 count.

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"That was a loud sound off the bat, that's for sure," Braves starter Scott Kazmir said. "It's impressive to watch, especially off a guy like [Tanaka]."

In his next at-bat in the third, Acuna singled sharply through the gap between third and short, this time against reliever Chasen Shreve.

"My goal when I get in there is to try and look for a fastball, make good contact and connect," Acuna said. "Luckily, I saw the pitch and was able to make the adjustment and got some good wood on it."

Acuna finished his day with a line-drive single to left field for his eighth hit in his last 12 spring at-bats. It was also Acuna's third consecutive multihit game and pushed his spring average to .421 after an 0-for-7 start.

"To be honest, I've felt comfortable from the very first time that I went out there. The results just weren't there," Acuna said. "It's just about the process and progressing, developing and making adjustments as we go along."

"He's a young guy that was pretty amped up," Braves manager Brian Snitker said of the slow start.

Acuna, who got the start in left field, was glad to put a lid on a brewing cap controversy and move the conversation back to baseball.

Acuna went through his pregame warmups and batting practice with his hat straight forward and pulled down on his forehead. His akilter headwear had seemed to irk team brass who said they wanted the 20-year-old to maintain a professional appearance while in uniform. Team rules require that the logo be visible at all times, which includes wearing sunglasses on the brim of the hat, or, in Acuna's case, wearing it at an extreme angle.

Snitker said before the game that the hat controversy was "blown out of proportion."

"You do respect the game and the organization and the team on the front of [the hat]," Snitker said. "I tell these guys we don't do things like everybody else. There's a lot of Hall of Famers who've spent a lot of time in this organization."

Acuna was voted Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year in 2017 after he combined to hit .325 with 21 home runs and 44 stolen bases across three Minor League stops.

J. Scott Butherus is a contributor to MLB.com.

Atlanta Braves, Ronald Acuna Jr.