Coming back from an ACL injury that cost him the second half of 2021 (including Atlanta's run to an improbable World Series victory), Braves slugger Ronald Acuña didn’t have the season he was hoping for this past year, posting a career-worst .266/.351/.413 batting line with 125 strikeouts in 533 plate appearances (23.6-percent K rate). Seeking extra reps, the All-Star outfielder headed to the Venezuelan Winter League to play for his hometown Tiburones de La Guaira, debuting in impressive fashion with a pinch-hit homer Tuesday night.
Acuña’s eighth-inning blast staked Tiburones to a commanding 8-1 lead, with La Guaira ultimately winning by a final count of 9-1. The Braves were initially reluctant to let Acuña play, though the sides eventually reached a compromise, allowing him to DH. The 24-year-old was joined in the lineup by a handful of former and current big-leaguers including Ehire Adrianza (Acuña’s teammate in Atlanta this past season), veteran catcher Robinson Chirinos (most recently of the Orioles) and left-hander Felix Doubront, best known for his five-year stint with the Red Sox from 2010-14.
Tuesday’s showdown at Estadio Jose Bernardo Perez (where the temperature was a balmy 84 degrees) turned out to be much less chaotic than a game that took place over the weekend between La Guaira and Caribes de Anzoategui. Asdrubal Cabrera, a two-time All-Star and 15-year MLB veteran, was none too happy about Carlos Castro admiring his home run to deep right field, attacking the La Guaira infielder when the two encountered each other on the basepaths. Cabrera was dismissed by the team shortly after.
Signed through 2028 (assuming both his club options are exercised), Acuña recently hired new representation, making the switch from Peter E. Greenberg Associates to Magnus Sports, a Las Vegas-based agency that counts Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman among its highest-profile clients.