ATLANTA – Within moments of Marcel Ozuna unblocking his wicked shot, no one was looking at where the ball ended up. Not because the Braves’ designated hitter was jammed on a Gavin Stone fastball, but because the barrel of his bat was swinging around Will Smith on the side of his head in the fourth inning.
The ensuing verbal spat and close-by-the-benches confrontation still carries some steam a day after the Dodgers were fired from the Braves, 8-6, at Truist Park Monday night, with Smith’s mild-mannered expression of annoyance at what Ozuna has admitted is a common trend-led His hearty cut and extended release with his upper hand led many anglers to take an unexpected shot.
“I was absolutely nuts,” Smith said Monday night after confronting Ozuna after the swing, again shortly before Ozuna’s next bat in the sixth inning was tackled by Alan Porter, the team’s home umpire.
“He hit me over the head with his bat so hard. It’s not the first time he’s done it to me. He’s done it to other guys all over the league. I just felt like there was a point where I needed to say something there. At the moment, I got kind of hot.” .It’s something he doesn’t do on purpose. But[if]you do it enough times, you’d think he’d fix it.”
Smith, who missed this season by two weeks with a concussion, noted that it was an especially sensitive subject for him given how recent his injury was. He’s back in the Dodgers lineup and behind the plate for Tuesday night’s contest.
“He’s definitely sensitive to it,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of Smith.
Insisting it was an accident, Ozuna said Smith wasn’t the only one who caught a keg by mistake, including now teammate Shaun Murphy, former Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, current Cardinals catcher Wilson Contreras and Smith’s teammate, Austin Barnes (Barnes). (He confirmed on Tuesday that he had borne the brunt of Ozuna’s decline before). Before Monday’s game was completed, footage returned showing Ozuna had previously gotten Smith with a similar swing on the field at Dodger Stadium last season.
Ozuna said he has now apologized to the Dodgers backstop (although Smith disputed that Monday night). But the 32-year-old hitter’s fury came from Smith’s reaction, saying the catcher “showed me in front of everybody here.”
“He said, ‘No, you have to fix it,’” Ozuna said. “I said, ‘I have to fix it, why? You want me to change the mechanic? If I’m thrown infield, you’re trying to steal a hit, what do you want me to do? I will swing like that. “
Braves manager Brian Snitker said “he didn’t want to do that”. “The last thing he wants to do is try to hurt someone.”
Ozuna recommended that Smith run back in the penalty area to protect himself, something he said other catchers have done in the past when he pointed out how far back he gets with his swing — and something Snickers noted that flamboyant Atlanta coach Sal Fasano advised him to take on guys like Ozuna with. longer swings.
“Instead of getting beat up, we’re putting them back,” Snicker said.
Barnes, who like Smith has stationed close to the opposing hitter to help frame hits, said some opposing hitters had given him advance warning that their swing could enter the danger zone. Barnes said there was an additional consideration of not just running back, but the front end of catcher’s interference.
“It’s just bad,” Barnes said. “You know, it’s a bat, and you’re swinging that thing really hard. … I don’t think he’s doing it on purpose, but getting hit on the head is never fun.”
After Tuesday’s game, which the Dodgers won 8-1, Smith told reporters that he and Ozuna were “over it.” Asked if he made a comeback during the game, Smith said, “Yeah, I do come back.”
(Photo: Brett Davis/USA Today)
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