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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.

Nationals’ Strasburg ejected for arguing from the stands

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — A pitcher getting ejected for arguing balls and strikes – on his day off? And, from the stands?

Nationals star Stephen Strasburg earned one of baseball’s most unique ejections – probably ever – in the third inning of Washington’s game against the New York Mets on Thursday.

Strasburg was sitting in Section 121 at Citi Field in this socially distant season because he’s scheduled to start Friday against Baltimore Orioles. He was apparently unhappy with the strike zone of plate umpire Carlos Torres after Austin Voth‘s 2-2 pitch to Pete Alonso on the outside corner was ruled a ball.

Moments later, Torres ejected last year’s World Series MVP, though it took a few seconds to realize who had been tossed.

Someone was heard yelling: “You’re (expletive) brutal” shortly before television cameras captured Strasburg doffing his cap as he walked up the staircase on his way out of the park.

“Sorry, folks – sorry, FCC,” Mets broadcaster Gary Cohen said on SNY.

The usually stoic Strasburg appeared to be grinning underneath his blue mask as he made his exit.