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Braves won’t promote Ronald Acuña until he plays better at Triple-A

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Braves top prospect Ronald Acuña was a hot topic of conversation last month. The 20-year-old outfielder lit up opposing pitching all spring, batting .432 with four home runs and 11 RBI in 52 plate appearances. As expected, however, the Braves sent him to Triple-A Gwinnett to start the season.

The reason why the Braves did that was fairly obvious, even though they never admitted to it: service time manipulation. Once a certain portion of the season passes — typically around mid-April — teams are assured of an extra year of contractual control over their players who haven’t played in the majors yet. This is why the Cubs briefly delayed Kris Bryant‘s MLB debut in 2015 and it’s why Acuña started the year with Gwinnett.

Acuña tore up Triple-A pitching last year just as he did spring pitching. In 243 plate appearances, he hit .344/.393/.548, which is why MLB Pipeline ranked him as the Braves’ No. 1 prospect and No. 2 overall in baseball behind Shohei Ohtani. Unfortunately for Acuña, he hasn’t had the same success to start the 2018 season. In 36 plate appearances, he’s batting a lowly .152/.222/.182. According to MLB.com’s Mark Bowman, the Braves are now saying they won’t promote their top prospect until he shows better results at Triple-A.

The Braves, who aren’t really beholden to service time manipulation anymore, aren’t being coy this time — Acuña’s stats are miserable and the Braves’ offense (save for Ender Inciarte) has been excellent to start the season, so there’s no rush here. Once Preston Tucker‘s hot streak wears off and when Acuña is hitting better, then the Braves will be motivated to call him up.

Clay Buchholz makes first major league start in over a year

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The Diamondbacks selected the contract of pitcher Clay Buchholz from Triple-A Reno ahead of Sunday’s game against the Mets. It marked Buchholz’s first major league start since April 11 last season (also against the Mets) when he was a member of the Phillies. Shortly after that start, he was diagnosed with a partial tear of his flexor pronator mass and he ended up not being able to pitch the rest of the season.

Buchholz signed a minor league deal with the Royals but he opted out of his contract at the beginning of this month. The Diamondbacks signed him to a minor league deal a few days later, needing depth with a depleted starting rotation. Buchholz made two starts for Reno before getting the call Sunday.

Buchholz, 33, pitched well on Sunday against the Mets, lasting five innings and limiting the opposition to a run on two hits and a walk with two strikeouts. His only blemish was allowing a solo home run to Amed Rosario leading off the sixth. He was immediately relieved by T.J. McFarland afterwards.

It is not yet clear if Buchholz will get another turn through the D-Backs’ rotation.