Braves’ Acuña describes feelings for Freeman as ‘nothing’

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
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ATLANTA — Don’t count Ronald Acuna Jr. among the Atlanta players who will be missing Freddie Freeman as the Braves open their season.

Acuna said in an Instagram Live interview he had no feelings for Freeman, the former longtime Braves first baseman who helped lead Atlanta to the World Series championship last year and then signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Asked if he would miss Freeman, Acuna replied “Me? Nothing.”

Added Acuna, according to a translation of the interview in Spanish conducted by Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times: “We just shared the same stadium. … We had several clashes.”

Freeman was extremely popular with fans and most teammates. But Acuna said in the Instagram Live interview he wasn’t warmly welcomed as a rookie by some veteran players.

“It’s something that happens all the time,” Acuna said. “When you come up as a rookie, with your flow. There’s always someone who wants to put you in your place. You put your eye black, your sunglasses, your hat a little crooked. A lot of people doesn’t like it and yourself don’t see it as being bad because it’s part of the game. Lots of veterans did that to me.

“When I came up in 2018, they used a swipe and cleaned it up. I couldn’t say anything. I will be a veteran one day. I’m not saying I’m a veteran today, but no one is going to come and take something off my face today.”

Acuna didn’t name Freeman as one of the veteran players who disapproved of his style as a rookie. But Freeman acknowledged during an interview Thursday with MLB Network that he did scold Acuna for his eye black and sunglasses.

“When you put on a Braves uniform in that organization, there’s organizational rules,” Freeman said. “You don’t cover the `A’ with sunglasses, you don’t wear earrings. You have your hair a certain length. You wear a uniform out during BP. You don’t have eye black coming down across your whole face.

“Those are just organizational things, so, I guess I was one of the older guys that did have to enforce those kinds of things in the clubhouse, but when you put on a Braves uniforms, those are kind of what happens. I didn’t view it as any friction or clashes or anything like that.”

Freeman added that he and his family “love” Acuna and would miss him.

“I can’t wait for him to get healthy and get on the field,” he said. “I think he’s great for the game of baseball.”

Acuna attempted play down his comments before Thursday night’s opening game against Cincinnati.

“To be honest, I think it was just exaggerated and blown out of proportion by the media,” Acuna said through translator Franco Garcia.

Braves manager Brian Snitker said he was not aware of any conflicts between Acuna and Freeman.

“If it was, it was between those two,” Snitker said.

Acuna is the first Atlanta player to have anything but praise for Freeman, the 2020 NL MVP.

Many of Freeman’s teammates openly lobbied for the Braves to re-sign the free agent. When Atlanta would not offer more than five years, the first baseman signed a $162 million, six-year deal with Los Angeles.

The Braves countered by trading for Matt Olson, who is four years younger than Freeman, and quickly signing Olson to a $168 million, eight-year deal. Olson now joins Acuna as foundation players for the Braves.

Acuna is recovering from a torn ACL in his right knee suffered midway through last season and is on the injured list as the Braves open their season against Cincinnati on Thursday night. The Braves hope Acuna can return in May.

Cardinals sign pitcher Miles Mikolas to 3-year, $55.75M deal

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Rhona Wise/USA TODAY Sports

ST. LOUIS — Miles Mikolas is sticking with the St. Louis Cardinals.

The right-hander signed a three-year, $55.75 million contract on Friday that will carry through the 2025 season.

The new deal replaces a $68 million, four-year contract signed in February 2019 that covered the 2020-23 seasons and was set to pay $15.75 million this year.

Mikolas will receive a $5 million signing bonus payable July 1 and will make $18.75 million in 2023 and $16 million in each of the following two seasons. Mikolas can earn a $250,000 bonus for winning a Cy Young Award, $50,000 for All-Star election or selection or winning a Gold Glove, $100,000 for League Championship Series MVP and $150,000 for World Series MVP.

Mikolas is scheduled to make the second opening-day start of his big league career next Thursday when the Cardinals host Toronto. Mikolas went 12-13 with a 3.29 ERA last season while helping St. Louis to the NL Central title.

“Miles stands among the top pitchers in the game today, and has continued to provide a steady presence for us both in the rotation and inside the clubhouse,” St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak said in a statement.

Mikolas is 45-40 with a 3.79 in 143 games with San Diego, Texas and St. Louis. He recently pitched six shutout innings in two appearances for the U.S. in the World Baseball Classic.