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Braves star Ronald Acuna Jr. reveals rift with former teammate Freddie Freeman

Braves star Ronald Acuna Jr. reveals rift with former teammate Freddie Freeman
Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. (L) and Freddie Freeman (R) spent parts of four seasons together with the Braves. File Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo

April 7 (UPI) -- Atlanta Braves star outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. acknowledged during an interview late Wednesday that an internal rift existed between him and former teammate Freddie Freeman.

In the interview, Acuna said there's "nothing" that he'd miss about Freeman. On Thursday, however, Acuna said those comments were "made a spectacle of," while Freeman said the entire situation was "unfortunate."

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Acuna, speaking in Spanish to Dominican Republic-based sports reporter Yancen Pujols late Wednesday on Instagram Live, was asked what he'd miss about Freeman, who left the Braves to join the Los Angeles Dodgers last month after Atlanta acquired Matt Olson.

"Me?" Acuna responded to Pujols' question. "Nothing."

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

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"We were close in that we shared the same stadium," Acuna said. "But we had a lot of [clashes]."

The 24-year-old Acuna, who is still recovering from a significant ACL injury that he suffered last season, attempted to downplay his comments before the Braves' regular-season opener against the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday night.

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"To be honest, I think it was just exaggerated and blown out of proportion by the media," Acuna said through translator Franco Garcia. "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 about Freeman: "He never controlled me. He has a life and I have a life."

According to Wednesday's interview, the divide between Acuna and Freeman stemmed from disagreements regarding clubhouse rules during the 2018 season, when Acuna was a rookie.

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"When you come up as a rookie, there's always someone who [wants to tell you how to do things]," Acuna told Pujols. "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.

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"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 remained quiet when the veterans approached him.

"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?"

Later Thursday, Freeman responded to Acuna's comments, saying he was just trying to enforce the same "organizational rules" that he had to comply with as a younger player. Freeman noted that he never had any "friction or clashes" with Acuna during their time together in Atlanta.

"I saw the eye black situation," Freeman told MLB Network. "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 [batting practice], you don't have eye black coming down across your whole face.

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"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."

When asked Thursday if he regretted his comments, Acuna said he didn't.

"I don't regret it," Acuna said. "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, however, said he would miss Acuna.

"I loved Ronald. I still love Ronald," Freeman said. "I'm going to miss Ronald. My family is going to miss Ronald. 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."

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