Acuña delivers first HR, bat flip of spring

March 12th, 2021

’s bat-flip game appeared to be in midseason form when he hit his first homer of the spring in the Braves’ 2-0 win over the Rays on Thursday afternoon at CoolToday Park in North Port, Fla.

Acuña displayed his tremendous power with a solo shot that sailed toward the top of the left-field berm. After drilling Collin McHugh's pitch, Atlanta's 23-year-old superstar took a couple of steps out of the box, began a light jog and casually flipped his bat toward the Braves’ dugout.

Acuña's long homer highlighted a two-hit day that began with an infield single off Tyler Glasnow leading off the first. Acuña entered the day 2-for-14 with five strikeouts in Spring Training. The outfielder was 5-for-32 with no extra-base hits and 14 strikeouts last spring before camp was halted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“He hasn’t been around long enough to say what kind of spring player he is,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “But I think anytime anyone hits one like that or gets a couple of hits, they’re going to feel good. It was good to see him do that.”

Acuña battled left wrist inflammation most of last season, but he still led the National League with one homer every 11.43 at-bats. His 81 career homers are the third most any Braves player has recorded through age 22, behind only Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews (112) and Bob Horner (91).

“When you look at the slugging numbers to all fields, it’s just crazy,” Snitker said. “I’m there every day and see it. But when you see it like that, it’s even more crazy, just what he’s capable of doing from foul pole to foul pole.”

Rising star
has played in just 53 Minor League games since graduating from suburban Atlanta’s Stockbridge High School in 2019. But he has continued to make a great impression on Snitker, who saw the 20-year-old outfielder homer off hard-throwing Rays right-hander Pete Fairbanks in the seventh inning Thursday.

Harris’ first Grapefruit League home run made him 3-for-7 through seven games. He ranks No. 12 among Braves prospects per MLB Pipeline. That ranking could significantly improve in the near future.

“He’s a special player,” Snitker said. “We just got to get him a Minor League season to start, where we can get him out there playing every day.”

Wright extends strong bid
Snitker said some early off-days create the possibility of beginning the season with a four-man rotation. At the same time, he is looking forward to the chance to watch Kyle Wright, Bryse Wilson and Huascar Ynoa continue to battle for a roster spot.

Wright, Wilson and Ynoa are the top candidates to fill the rotation spot that would remain open until Mike Soroka returns from right Achilles tendon surgery. If Soroka remains on schedule and returns within the first few weeks of the regular season, the Braves might need one of those young pitchers to make just a start or two.

There’s also a chance one of them will serve as a long reliever during the regular season’s first couple of weeks.

Wright strengthened his bid by limiting the Rays to two hits over four scoreless innings on Thursday. The 25-year-old right-hander finished the 2020 season strong and has worked seven scoreless innings over his past two spring outings.