Atlanta Braves' Ronald Acuna Jr. acknowledges rift with former teammate Freddie Freeman

ByColey Harvey ESPN logo
Friday, April 8, 2022

ATLANTA -- Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. acknowledged an internal rift with former teammate Freddie Freeman during an interview late Wednesday, saying there's "nothing" that he'd miss about the first baseman.

On Thursday, however, Acuna said those comments were "made a spectacle of," while Freeman said the entire situation was "unfortunate."

Acuna, speaking in Spanish to Dominican Republic-based sports reporter Yancen Pujols late Wednesday night on Instagram Live, was asked what he'd miss most about Freeman, who signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers last month after the Braves had traded for Matt Olson.

"Me?" Acuna responded to the question. "Nothing."

Acuna was then asked if he had been close with Freeman over the past four seasons with the Braves, who are coming off a World Series championship.

"We were close in that we shared the same stadium," Acuna said, "but we had a lot of, how do you say ..."

"Lots of clashes," Pujols interrupted.

"Lots of clashes," Acuna said, nodding.

Acuna, who is still recovering from an ACL injury suffered last season and is on the injury list, attempted downplay the comments before Thursday night's opener against the Cincinnati Reds.

"To be honest, I think it was just exaggerated and blown out of proportion by the media," Acuna said through translator Franco Garcia on Thursday. "I didn't say anything bad about [Freeman]. I didn't disrespect him. ... I talked about what happened in 2018. That was in the past."

Acuna added later: "He never controlled me. He has a life and I have a life."

According to the interview on Wednesday night, the crux of Acuna's issues with Freeman, a five-time All-Star and the 2020 National League MVP, stemmed from disagreements with clubhouse rules during the 2018 season, when Acuna was a rookie.

"When you come up as a rookie, there's always someone who [wants to tell you how to do things]," Acuna said. "You come up from the minor leagues with the big eye black, the sunglasses, the hat low, and a lot of people see that as wrong. And the other person doesn't see it as wrong because it's part of the game.

"A lot of veterans [picked on me] when I was a rookie, and they called me into the office themselves and told me: 'No, you can't use that.' And they took [the eye black] off me with a towel like that. And I said, 'OK, that's fine.'"

Pujols then asked Acuna if he stayed quiet.

"Yeah, of course. I can't say anything, you know?" Acuna said. "I just said, 'One day I'll be a veteran.' I'm not saying I'm a veteran right now, but nobody's going to take the eye black off my face now, you know?"

Freeman on Thursday told MLB Network that as a veteran, he was just trying to enforce the same "organizational rules" that he had to comply with as a younger player and that he never viewed any "friction or clashes" with Acuna during their time together as teammates.

"I saw the eye black situation," Freeman told MLB Network about Acuna's comments from Wednesday night. "When you put on a Braves uniform ... In that organization, there's organizational rules: You don't cover the 'A' [on your hat] with your sunglasses, you don't wear earrings, you have your hair a certain length, you wear a uniform 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 things in the clubhouse. But when you put on a Braves uniform, those are kind of what happens there."

Braves manager Brian Snitker said he wasn't aware of any conflict between Acuna and Freeman, "and if there was, it was between those two."

When asked Thursday if he regretted saying that he wouldn't miss Freeman, Acuna said he didn't.

"I don't regret it," Acuna said Thursday. "He signed with another team. He asked me what I would miss about him. What should I miss about someone who's on another team?"

Freeman, meanwhile, said otherwise.

"I loved Ronald. I still love Ronald. I'm going to miss Ronald. My family is going to miss Ronald," Freeman told MLB Network. "And I can't wait for him to get on the field again because the game of baseball needs him.

"...It's unfortunate that he viewed it like that, but we were always told, you put on a Braves uniform, you're supposed to act a little differently, hold yourself a little differently. And I just tried to uphold those rules as good as I could."

Freeman and the Dodgers open the season at the Colorado Rockies on Friday.

ESPN's Alden Gonzalez contributed to this report.

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