Braves’ Ronald Acuna, Freddie Freeman healthy for Game 1 vs. Cardinals
ATLANTA — The Atlanta Braves’ top sluggers say they’re ready for the postseason.
Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuna Jr., two keys to Atlanta’s lineup who suffered late-season injuries, say they are healthy for the NL Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Acuna’s status for Thursday’s Game 1 was the bigger concern. The 21-year-old outfielder has not played since Sept. 24 because of tightness in his left hip. The injury ended his chase for a rare 40-40 season. He finished with 41 homers and 37 steals.
Acuna and Freeman played in a simulated game Tuesday.
Acuna said through a translator he feels “really good” and expects to play with the “same enthusiasm and energy. I think the adrenaline is coming back now that we’re getting closer to it.”
Freeman has struggled with bone spurs in his right elbow and at one point last month could not straighten his right arm. He returned for Atlanta’s final regular-season series at the New York Mets.
Freeman said he had a recurrence of pain while in New York but remains optimistic because he has had no discomfort for three consecutive days of workouts and treatments in Atlanta.
“I’m very encouraged going into (Thursday) that I’m going to have no problems arising at all when I swing,” Freeman said.
The Cardinals also enter the playoffs with encouraging injury news. Manager Mike Shildt said second baseman Kolten Wong, who missed two weeks with a hamstring injury, will start Game 1.
Atlanta left-hander Dallas Keuchel (8-8, 3.75) will face St. Louis right-hander Miles Mikolas (9-14, 4.16) in Game 1 of the best-of-five series.
Keuchel, the 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner, signed a one-year deal with Atlanta on June 7. He is 4-2 with a 3.31 ERA in 10 postseason games, including nine starts, with Houston.
“I think when we signed him, we envisioned him making this opening start,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.
Keuchel said he feels “a new level of excitement and anticipation” with the Braves.
“I’m sure I’ll be a little bit more anxious,” he said. “Not so much nervous, but just because this will be the first time I’m going into the postseason with the Atlanta Braves.”
Mikolas will be making his first postseason start. He said he will try to treat the start as “just another day at the ballpark. Just another day at work.”
“Maybe a little more stressful,” Mikolas said. “Maybe a little louder. But starting from Day 1, you know, playing Wiffle ball in the backyard, you’re dreaming of that playoff atmosphere.”
Shildt confirmed Jack Flaherty will start Friday’s Game 2. He didn’t announce his Game 3 starter, saying Dakota Hudson “will get a start” but will be available in relief Thursday.
Snitker will counter with Mike Foltynewicz in Game 2 and Mike Soroka in Game 3. Snitker said Max Fried likely would start a fourth game, though Fried may be needed in relief.
Snitker said veteran right-hander Julio Teheran will not be on the NLDS roster. He said he will carry a six-man bench and only 11 pitchers because he needs more position players to compensate for the losses of outfielder Ender Inciarte and utility players Johan Camargo and Charlie Culberson to injuries.
Snitker said leaving Teheran, the team’s Opening Day starter, off the roster “was as tough a decision as I’ve ever been a part of in my baseball career.”
Josh Tomlin will be Atlanta’s long reliever.
Snitker also said Rafael Ortega made the playoff roster as a backup outfielder instead of rookie Austin Riley.
Shildt said he would not reveal his roster until Thursday.