VENICE, Fla. — Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker held court in front of a “2021 World Champions” banner, occasionally peaking in the nearby bullpen, where World Series hero Charlie Morton hosted a side session .Round the corner, Ronald Acuna Jr. and Cristian Pache pulled up in matching, shiny SUVs and posed for a photo.
“It’s like the first day of school,” said October star Tyler Matzek.
The big leaguers dropped into camps across Florida and Arizona on Sunday for the first official day of spring training after the 99-day lockdown, with a notable absence for the Braves: All-Star and League MVP National 2020 Freddie Freeman.
It’s been over a decade since Freeman was in the Atlanta camp, but he remains a free agent.
Snitker texted Freeman shortly after the firewall prevented management from speaking with players dropped out at the end of the lockout on Thursday. He said he wasn’t sure what the first baseman would do and didn’t ask. He just wanted to talk to an old friend. .
“I hadn’t spoken to him since we left the parade,” Snitker said. “I just said, ‘Man, I can talk to you now.
“I was just asking how the family was doing. There was nothing professional or corporate or anything. Just checking it out. Let’s face it, he’s going to be a good friend for the rest of my life no matter what. what happens professionally.”
Braves come out of the work stoppage with more uncertainty than most Acuna has recovered from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Morton is back on the mound after breaking his leg in Game 1 of the World Series and Mike Soroka is making progress after tearing his right Achilles tendon again last summer.
“I’m ready,” Acuna said on his way to the clubhouse.
Not quite, but the Braves are happy with his progress. The 2018 NL Rookie of the Year suffered a season-ending right knee injury last July and missed the Atlanta race in October.
Acuna said he is considering a return to play in May. The Braves haven’t announced a schedule yet, but Snitker is encouraged by what he’s heard and is excited to see Acuna in action when practices begin Monday.
“I know the reports are really good,” Snitker said. “I mean really good. I guess he worked his back.”
Morton had a plate and several screws surgically placed in his leg after he was hit by a comeback at 102mph in Game 1 of the World Series – he threw another 16 pitches after that, saying on Sunday: “It’s not that when the bone actually separated, like I actually felt the separation of the bone, that’s when I was like, okay.”
The 38-year-old has returned to throwing and is not far off his normal spring regimen, although he wanted to assess his progress a bit more before committing to being ready for Opening Day on the 7th April.
Soroka, a 2019 All-Star, hasn’t pitched since the start of 2020 after tearing his Achilles tendon for the first time.
Snitker said he was progressing well and doctors were encouraged by his recovery.
“I know he’s excited to be back here and doing it again,” Snitker said, “but I know a year ago today he probably was too.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.