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Acuna's season begins with Gwinnett opener

Sanchez slated to make 1st start Saturday; Braves not rushing Camargo back from rehab
MLB.com @mlbbowman

DENVER -- Ronald Acuna Jr. might make his much-anticipated Major League debut as early as next weekend, but the highly touted outfielder's first debut of the season occurred Friday night, when he and his Triple-A Gwinnett teammates opened the season with a 3-1 road win against Norfolk.

Extending his trend of being a slow starter, Acuna went 0-for-4 with a strikeout. Gwinnett starting pitcher Mike Soroka allowed just three hits over five scoreless innings.

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DENVER -- Ronald Acuna Jr. might make his much-anticipated Major League debut as early as next weekend, but the highly touted outfielder's first debut of the season occurred Friday night, when he and his Triple-A Gwinnett teammates opened the season with a 3-1 road win against Norfolk.

Extending his trend of being a slow starter, Acuna went 0-for-4 with a strikeout. Gwinnett starting pitcher Mike Soroka allowed just three hits over five scoreless innings.

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Acuna ranks only behind the Angels' Shohei Ohtani on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list. The 20-year-old outfielder drew comparisons to Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr. and other former elite prospects as he hit .432, tallied four homers and produced a 1.247 OPS over 52 plate appearances during this year's Grapefruit League season.

While Acuna might have been ready to begin the year at the big league level, the Braves followed through with the expected decision to have him open with Gwinnett. If the young outfielder is promoted any time after April 13, the team can secure an extra year of contractual control.

• Starting spots for Braves' Top 30 prospects

If Acuna makes his big league debut on April 14, he might end up playing just seven games for Gwinnett. But there's always the possibility the team could opt to push his debut to a later date. The Braves open a homestand against the Phillies on April 16.

Video: ATL@HOU: Acuna collects three singles vs. Astros

Fans can follow all of the Braves' prospects and farm teams on a daily basis with MLB.com's Minor League Tracker.

Sanchez set to start
Braves manager Brian Snitker said Anibal Sanchez will start Saturday night's game against the Rockies. Sanchez will be filling the rotation spot that had been originally earmarked for Luiz Gohara, who is still a few weeks away from returning from the left ankle sprain he sustained during Spring Training.

With Sanchez slotted for Saturday, each of the Braves' starting pitchers will make their next turn with an extra day of rest. Snitker said he will try to give each of his starters an extra day of rest whenever possible over the course of the season.

Video: ATL@HOU: Sanchez strikes out Gonzalez in Braves debut

Sanchez signed a Minor League deal after being released by the Twins during Spring Training. The veteran right-hander impressed enough for the team to release Scott Kazmir and his $16 million contract. Sanchez made his Braves debut when he tossed three scoreless innings of relief during Monday's loss to the Nationals.

Gohara was slated to pitch two innings in an extended spring training game on Friday. The big lefty could officially begin his Minor League rehab assignment next week, and he'll likely make at least four starts before being removed from the disabled list.

No need to rush
The Braves have decided Johan Camargo will extend his Minor League rehab assignment through at least the remainder of this weekend. Camargo went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts and played the entirety of Class A Advanced Florida's season opener on Thursday night.

"The reports I got were that he looked fine defensively, but looked a little rusty offensively, which is to be expected because he's been off a month" Snitker said. "He's healthy. So if something were to happen and we had to bring him back, I don't think we'd have any reservations. Right now, I don't think there is a pressing need to rush him back."

Video: ATL@PIT: Camargo plates Acuna Jr. on an RBI double

Camargo is slated to play shortstop on Friday and serve as the designated hitter for Florida in Saturday's game. There is a chance he could be added to Atlanta's roster before Monday's series opener at Nationals Park.

With Ryan Flaherty proving to be a quality fill-in at third base, the Braves have less reason to rush Camargo, whose activity was limited over the two weeks that followed him exiting a March 13 Spring Training game with discomfort near his right oblique muscle.

Suzuki returns
Kurt Suzuki was in the lineup for Friday's scheduled game against the Rockies. The veteran catcher has not played since he exited a March 30 loss to the Phillies with a right hand contusion sustained on hit-by-pitch on a Nick Pivetta fastball.

Suzuki will serve as the Braves' primary catcher while Tyler Flowers remains sidelined for at least a few more weeks with the left oblique muscle strain he sustained on Opening Day. Carlos Perez will serve as Suzuki's backup.

Chris Stewart opened the season as Atlanta's third catcher, but after Perez was acquired from the Angels last weekend, the Braves opted to designate Stewart for assignment. Stewart was outrighted to Gwinnett and he has accepted the assignment.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves, Johan Camargo, Ronald Acuna Jr., Anibal Sanchez, Kurt Suzuki