Braves manager Brian Snitker benches Ronald Acuña Jr. for lack of hustle

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/players/10646/" data-ylk="slk:Ronald Acuña Jr.">Ronald Acuña Jr.</a> was benched for a lack of hustle on Sunday. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
Ronald Acuña Jr. was benched for a lack of hustle on Sunday. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Atlanta Braves phenom Ronald Acuña Jr. admired a long fly ball he hit to right-center field before realizing that it wouldn’t leave the park.

Manager Brian Snitker wasn’t in a forgiving mood after watching one of baseball’s brightest stars settle for a single, pulling the 21-year-old from a critical 5-3 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday.

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After driving the ball against starter Tony Gonsolin in the third inning, Acuña held his bat high and walked six steps before starting a slow jog to first. He only picked up his pace after another seven or so steps. Acuña compounded his mistake by being thrown out trying to steal second base just pitches later.

Acuña’s drive was impressive, but it was far from a lock to go out. Balls hit with a 100 mph exit velocity and 38 degree launch angle have only gone out 21.3 percent of the time this season, and all of the homers have been hit to the corners.

Here’s video — and heated commentary — of the long single from former Cleveland Indians pitcher-turned-Fox Sports broadcaster Paul Byrd:

After Acuña came back to the dugout, Snitker called him down the stairs for a talk. He left Acuña in the game for the fourth inning but eventually pulled him before the fifth for Adam Duvall, who shifted to left field.

Acuña accepted blame after the game, saying the walk out of the box was unintentional.

Managers have different schools of thought when it comes to benching players for a lack of hustle. Just in the NL East alone, embattled New York Mets manager Mickey Callaway took it easy on veteran Robinson Canó in May, but Phillies skipper Gabe Kapler was quick to pull the trigger on Maikel Franco last month.

Snitker’s decision appeared to work out for the Braves on Sunday, as they stormed back to score four runs in the sixth to take a 5-3 lead following Acuña’s departure. Although Duvall wasn’t part of the rally, the team was fine without him for the moment.

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