Major League Baseball on Thursday suspended right-hander Jose Urena six games for "intentionally hitting" Braves rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. with a pitch on Wednesday night at SunTrust Park.
On his first and only pitch of the night, Urena plunked Acuna on the left elbow with a 97.5-mph fastball, which set off a benches-clearing incident that interrupted the four-game series finale in which the Braves rallied to a 5-2 victory.
Urena was slapped with an undisclosed fine, but he's planning to appeal his suspension that starts on Friday, when the Marlins face the Nationals on Friday at Washington.
If he appeals, Urena would be in line to face the Yankees at Marlins Park, either on Tuesday or Wednesday, then possibly drop his appeal since the Marlins play the Braves the following weekend.
In an Instagram post late Thursday night, Urena said his intentions were never to hurt anyone, just to stick to his plan and pitch his usual game. He's happy and thankful that Acuna was able to return to the lineup on Thursday without any problems.
Translated, the post read: ""While pitching against the Braves, my intentions were not to hurt anyone. I was pitching my game plan as I always do. Unfortunately things escalated into something that was never intended. I am glad and thankful Ronald Acuna was able to return to the lineup this evening without there being any issues. I am a competitor and want to compete anytime I am on the mound, and have the utmost respect for those who I compete against."
MLB also suspended Braves first-base coach Eric Young Sr. for one game (plus an undisclosed fine) for his actions during the incident.
During a heated exchange between the clubs, Braves manager Brian Snitker and Urena were ejected.
"Obviously, this is not something that we represent or believe in as an organization, or myself, too," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of intentionally throwing at Acuna. "I would never want that kid getting hit and cause that kind of problem."
The Marlins clearly understood why the Braves took exception.
"I understand, yeah," Mattingly said. "If we were on the other side, and our guy was hitting homers all over the place and that happens, you're going to be fired up. So you understand."
Urena maintained after the game that the pitch wasn't with intent, and that he was throwing a two-seam fastball that ran well inside.
"I think, for me, I feel pretty bad," Urena said after the game. "People get upset and things like that, but I got upset, too, because how am I going to wait five days to go out there and make one pitch and get kicked out of the game? That don't make sense, right?
"Always, I throw inside. That's my way for me to get outs. I go inside, try to take advantage and try to move [the batter's] feet, and that's the thing."
Acuna remained in the game to run the bases after being hit by the pitch, but after heading out to left field for the start of the second inning, he experienced discomfort and was removed from the game.
X-ray and CT scan results came back negative on Acuna's elbow, and the 20-year-old rookie was in the starting lineup on Thursday for Atlanta's series opener with the Rockies at SunTrust Park. He went 1-for-4 with a single and a stolen base as the Braves fell, 5-3.
• Acuna back leading off a day after HBP scare
Urena has a history of hitting batters. This season he's plunked 11, which is the most in the National League. A year ago, he paced the Majors with 14.
"If you watch Jose pitch, pretty much the first pitch of every game is pretty much there," Mattingly said. "We talked with Jose right after the game, and basically, he was saying, he knows the guy has been swinging the bat good. He was trying to get one close. He was trying to run it off in there, and that was the purpose of his pitch. That's exactly what he told us. I had talked with him before that. It was like, 'This kid is swinging the bat good. We've got to figure out how to get him out, right.'"
Acuna has been one of the hottest hitters in the league, becoming the youngest player to homer in five straight games. Against the Marlins, the rookie from Venezuela belted four home runs, including leadoff blasts in each of the first three games.
After the benches cleared, Marlins third baseman Brian Anderson, standing on the mound to help maintain peace, was shoved by Young.
Afterwards, Young sent word to first baseman Derek Dietrich that he was sorry he reacted that way.
"It's understandable," Anderson said. "In this game, people are very passionate about baseball, as well they should be, and something happens -- you kind of understand when tempers fly a little bit. When something like that happens, it's baseball for as long as this game's been around. It's probably going to continue to happen, so we just have to try to deescalate the situation when something like that happens and do the right thing."
Acuna is one of the top young stars in the game, and a big reason the Braves are in first place and in a tight battle with the Phillies in the National League East.
"Of course, you don't want to ever see that happen, especially to a first-place team trying to make the playoffs and one of the hottest hitters in the league," Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto said. "You never want to see anyone get hurt like that. Our intent was to pitch him inside. That's Jose's strength, and that's his weakness right now. That's really the only way to get him out. We were trying to go sinker in, and he lost it."