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Acuna HBP sparks strong reaction around MLB

August 16, 2018

Braves rookie sensation Ronald Acuna Jr. had hit eight homers in his last eight games, including five straight with a homer and three straight with a leadoff homer. But he didn't get a chance to extend that hot streak Wednesday after Marlins pitcher Jose Urena hit him in the elbow

Braves rookie sensation Ronald Acuna Jr. had hit eight homers in his last eight games, including five straight with a homer and three straight with a leadoff homer. But he didn't get a chance to extend that hot streak Wednesday after Marlins pitcher Jose Urena hit him in the elbow with a 97.5-mph fastball on his first pitch.
In the aftermath of the hit-by-pitch, decried by many in the Braves clubhouse and around baseball as intentional, and the subsequent ejections of Urena and Braves manager Brian Snitker, players and media personalities alike around the country weighed in on the controversy.
Acuna's plunking isn't what baseball needs

Paul Byrd, Fox Sports Southeast (Braves): "In case you missed the first pitch of the game, Urena hit Acuna in the arm. It was deliberate. Right at him. There were no apologies. Brian Snitker came out and got tossed. It was really hard for me to stay in the well as players got out on the field. Brian Snitker got huge points with me. If you ever think Brian Snitker is not fighting for his players, you watch that video. He has been outstanding. The response from that dugout -- people could not contain themselves, and security guards had to hold back fans in the front row over in the corner who wanted to take the field and charge the Marlins. I have never seen a debacle so bad with a young man who is 20 years old and has the home run streak for consecutive games on the line, to get that taken from him and trying to stay in the game, having to come out of the game in the second inning. It was brutal. It's not over."

Snitker: "I'll be honest with you. I'm not sure I've ever been that -- I've never felt like that in a baseball game before. That's just my emotion. That kid didn't deserve that.
"... I thought they made, ultimately, the right decision, because it was obvious that was intended to hit him. There's no reason for a young man to be hit like that when all he's doing is just playing the game. He's not doing anything to show anybody up. He's just playing the game. As I've said, he's a young, talented kid. It's a shame that happened. What happens if they hit him there and he breaks his elbow and he's done for the year? And what we're trying to accomplish here, where we're at, there's no reason for that. This is a game. My god. I had three hours to calm down, and now I'm getting worked up again."

Keith Hernandez, SNY (Mets): "They're killing you. You've lost three games. He's hit three home runs. You've got to hit him. I'm sorry. People aren't going to like that. You've got to hit him, knock him down, at least -- I mean, seriously knock him down if you don't hit him. You never throw at anybody's head or neck. You hit him in the back. You hit him in the fannie.
"... In today's game, they don't throw at hitters. I don't think the hitters know, so they don't know how to get out of the way of the ball or know it's coming. And you hit three home runs? I'm sorry, you've got to go down."

Chipper Jones, Braves legend: The recent Hall of Fame inductee expressed his disagreement with Hernandez via Twitter: " So by this way of thinking, Jacob deGrom should get drilled cuz he's the hottest pitcher on the planet? NO! I enjoy watching him pitch and I enjoy watching RAJ play the game. I'm old school just like this broadcaster, but these comments are waaay off base!"

Michael Kay, YES Network (Yankees): "He clearly did it on purpose. I mean, in basketball, if a guy scores 40, do you punch him in the face? That's just an awful part of baseball."
John Flaherty, YES Network (Yankees): "I have no problem throwing inside and sending a message. 'Hey, you're not going to be all over the plate.' But clearly, drilling somebody with the first pitch of the game, and you're thrown out, is letting down your teammates, everybody involved."

Jim Thome, MLB Tonight: "I think that moving forward, this sets the tone for your organization for the Atlanta Braves -- how you move forward with this. Obviously, the kid got hit on purpose. He's swinging the bat well. This is a shame. This, moving forward, will set the tone -- how your organization is looked at moving forward."
Harold Reynolds, MLB Tonight: "I still think he hit him on purpose. It was terrible. He should have gotten tossed. But if you watch the catcher, the catcher doesn't move. If he knows he's hitting the guy, he's going to hop up. They always do. This could have been Urena taking this on his own, saying, 'I'm doing this myself.' It may have been a pitch that he was trying to get in on him that ran on him. Either way, it looks so bad that he's got to get tossed. He just does."

Buster Olney, ESPN:

Brandon McCarthy, Braves:

Freddie Freeman, Braves: "I know that wasn't the Marlins. That was just Jose Urena. I don't understand it. It makes no sense. Just because a player is having fun playing a game, swinging the bat incredibly well, obviously, it makes no sense to us. It's completely classless on Jose Urena's part."
Tyler Flowers, Braves: "That's not a smart way to start the game. Division team, all those kinds of things, I don't think it was the right decision. He definitely wasn't deserving of that. I thought a first-pitch slider would have been a much better idea. But it is what it is. We did what we had to do, ended up winning that game. [Kevin] Gausman settled down, did a nice job. Ultimately, that's what we're shooting for. We're trying to get wins here, and we'll let all that stuff work out somewhere down the road."

• Michael Young, 14-year MLB veteran: "The whole 'make them uncomfortable ... move their feet...brush em back' thing is complete BS. It doesn't work. When a kid starts playing kid pitch at 8 [years old], he gets hit. When he gets to be, say, 12 [years old], it hurts a bit more. When he gets to high school, pitchers throw inside because good hitters shouldn't extend their arms. So they get hit. College, same thing. In [Class] A ball kids throw gas with zero command, so [the] same good hitter gets hit again. In [the] big leagues, with a runner on third and fewer than two outs, infield in, here comes that predictable sinker that runs in. Hitter gets hit.
"My point... you can't make a good hitter uncomfortable. He's been there, done that. He's laughing in his head because your heaters inside are simply teeing him up with a 2-0 count. Then he's going to torch you. You wanna get him out? Stop listening to that pitching coach giving you that outdated, awful Pitching 101. It's actually Quick Shower 101. Go in, out, up, down, change speeds, avoid patterns, and stop tipping. Clean it up.
"Last thing ... stop bringing up Pedro [Martinez], Unit [Randy Johnson], [Don] Drysdale, [Bob] Gibson, etc. Those guys got people out because they're [Hall of Famers]. Pitching inside was an art to them. For every guy like that, there are tons of other tough guys who pitched inside [with] no command, got shelled, and then got released."
Aaron Boone, Yankees manager: "It seemed pretty blatant to me. You know, I hate that. I'll just kind of leave it at that. It had a bad look."
Kevin Cash, Rays manager: "Look, I don't know if it was intentional or not. I saw what I saw. You'd hate to see any player, young player, veteran player, that's having success and going about it the right way. You don't want to see anybody get hurt to the point they're taken out of the ballgame."
Mauricio Dubon, Brewers No. 8 prospect, who is currently with Triple-A Colorado Springs, wrote on Twitter: "You don't do that."

Mickey Callaway, Mets manager: "I've obviously been around when guys have hit us really well. In my mind, I think that you never punish anybody for having success against you, but you make adjustments and try to counteract their success. What I mean by that is you have to establish that you can own that inside part of the plate. I don't think you ever go and intentionally hit anybody, but you've got to let them know that we're going to pitch in, we're going to pitch down-and-away, we're going to pitch up, and we're going to do the best we can to get you out."
Dave Eiland, Mets pitching coach: "I preach all the time about making hitters uncomfortable, all the time, one through nine every day. So I'm a big proponent of pitching in. I'm not a proponent of hitting a guy because he's having success, but I'm a proponent of pitching in. So if a guy is wearing us out, I'm not ever going to tell a pitcher to hit him. I'm not saying that's what happened. I don't know. But I'm a big proponent of pitching in. And when you pitch in, sometimes guys are going to get hit."
Ron Gardenhire, Tigers manager: "I just think when something like that happens, leading off a game and because [Acuna] hit home runs, [the Marlins] have taken it a little too far. I just know this, that was a National League game. My preference would have been for [the umpires] to leave him in the game. Because then he's got to bat. So a guy does something like that, the umpires just leave him in the game and then you let them take care of it the way it's supposed to be taken care of.
"I hate that stuff. It's a nightmare. You can kill somebody. And to just open up like that is ridiculous -- to just drill a guy because he hit a home run. Try to get him out. I thought that was pretty blatant and ridiculous. That's a joke, to just drill a guy on purpose leading off the game. Unless he's flipped the bat and took a five-minute walk around the bases, which, I don't know. If he showed them up, then it might be a little different. But still, that's a little ridiculous right there. And I don't know if somebody told him to, or if he just decided to do that, but like I said, right now I would be mad enough that if I were the manager, I might start [Urena] tomorrow and lead him off. Just so they can smoke him and knock him out. Just because he did something so stupid, to throw at a kid like that, just because he's hitting home runs. Come on."
Alcides Escobar, Royals (and cousin of Acuna): "That's on purpose, right away, first pitch. [Urena] says he likes to throw inside. Everybody likes to throw inside. But not the first pitch of the game. Everyone was mad about that."
Kolten Wong, Cardinals: "That's pathetic, honestly. [Acuna] isn't doing anything to get that to happen to him. He's playing good baseball right now and he's a young kid, a star, who is putting MLB on his back and doing what he needs to do. You don't do that to someone like that. I'm not a fan of that. Getting hit by pitches like that is not something that should be tolerated like that. Pitchers don't understand, that's not fun man. It's not funny to get hit like that. How I saw that, that was just a really low thing for him to do.
"I feel like the first pitch of the game is not a good time, and that was so blatant that he did that on purpose. You can't help but just be frustrated about that. Even though I'm not on the same team as that kid, he's one of the stars of MLB. He's doing it, man, and you've got to understand that as a player. Let him do his thing. Obviously he's not disrespecting anybody, the kid plays the game hard. I love watching [Acuna] play and I think he's going to be one of the stars for many years to come. To see that happen was definitely something that needs to be cleaned up."

Mike Scioscia, Angels manager: "I think it's very clear. If the intent is there with a pitcher, there's no part of that in Major League Baseball. Pitching inside has been in the game for 100 years, and guys get winged all the time, and guys get moved back when you're trying to get a fastball in and it gets into a certain zone. It's a part of pitching, and it's an important part of pitching. But throwing at somebody with intent should not be part of this game. It is dangerous."
Kyle Gibson, Twins: "You don't have to hit a guy to make him uncomfortable. You try to make a guy uncomfortable by messing up timing or location of pitches by how high or how low the pitch is. You can do it in so many different ways. You're going to end up hitting guys but you don't need to go and just hit a guy on the elbow. Everybody handles it differently. I'm not sure if someone told him to do it. I didn't read anything about it. I just saw as much reaction to Keith Hernandez's reaction to Urena. The game has obviously changed over the last 20 years or so. Back when Keith Hernandez played, it's what they did. They hit a guy. You name the Hall of Fame pitcher and they hit guys. There are stories about Bob Gibson hitting guys just for squaring around to bunt. But that's not how I make guys uncomfortable and it's just not the way to do it."
Paul Molitor, Twins manager: "You've got old school and new school. Different people are going to do different things when they feel is appropriate. It's probably less common, however how far back you want to go. ... If there was a hot hitter, you would try to let him know that you knew he was hot. However way you tried or chose to do that. Whether or not that happened yesterday, I'm not sure, but there was a message in there somehow."
Craig Stammen, Padres: "If you asked somebody who played in the '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, 2000s, now, I think you'd get six different answers. If you ask Nolan Ryan, maybe he won't admit it, but I'm sure he threw at a lot of guys on purpose. Pedro Martinez, it's documented that he did that, if the guy looked at him wrong or squared around to bunt. That's the same thing as a guy being hot. That's just how it was. Nowadays, everything's on TV, everyone sees everything that goes on in a game. Things are a little bit heightened.
"You don't want to injure anybody. I think he'll say his intent was to make him feel uncomfortable. However, you can make someone feel uncomfortable by not hitting them. There's a space between the plate and the batter that the batter fights for and the pitcher fights for. If you pitch effectively in there, you can send a message without hitting somebody. That's what I think. Part of it is, when you're pitching in there sometimes you're going to hit somebody. That's part of it. But it doesn't mean you were hitting him on purpose. That pitch right there looked like he was trying to hit him on purpose, like he was trying to hit him in the middle of the back. He should be pitching in that space. That's what I think the issue is."

Do-Hyoung Park is a reporter for MLB.com.

Daniel Kramer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @DKramer_.