Braves Dispatch: The Big Bear on the Home Run Derby: ‘Yeah, I’d do it’ (2024)

Hey there,

Marcell Ozuna is a slugger. He’s as slugger as slugger comes in this game.

So, I have a fun idea:

The Big Bear in the Home Run Derby.

Wouldn’t this be great?

But first off, would he accept the invitation if MLB extended it?

“Yeah, I’d do it,” Ozuna told me.

I asked Ozuna if the league had already asked him to do it. He said they have not.

On Thursday, MLB released the balloting results for Phase 1 of All-Star Game voting. The top two vote-getters at each position – and top six for the outfield – advanced to Phase 2, which determines who starts in the Midsummer Classic at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.

Ozuna did not make it to Phase 2. In its ballot updates over the last couple weeks, Ozuna was second for National League designated hitters, behind the Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani. But Phillies fans gave Kyle Schwarber a late push, and he passed Ozuna.

Ozuna could still be named a reserve. He would be deserving: At the moment the Braves lost on Thursday, Ozuna’s 21 homers ranked second in the NL. His 64 RBIs were tied for the lead. His .303 batting average was sixth, his OPS third.

He’s certainly worthy of an All-Star nod.

The good news: Regardless, Ozuna could participate in the Home Run Derby without being an All-Star if MLB chose him.

He’d enjoy taking center stage and trying it out. He’s never done it before.

“I think it’s cool,” Ozuna said. “A lot of guys hit homers in (batting practice) a lot. I can hit a homer in BP, so I just want to try to see how the experience is. Maybe win it. You never know.”

Ozuna’s raw power would be perfect for this event. It’s easy to envision him crushing baseball after baseball, and not becoming too tired.

And about the thought that the Home Run Derby might ruin a hitter’s swing because they’re only trying to hit homers?

Ozuna wouldn’t be worried about that.

“Yeah, it’s going to be fine, because it’s on your mind – the way that you prepare and you come back every day ready,” he said. “That day, after I (would) finish that Home Run Derby and all of that stuff, I would just train (with) my routine. And I think I would be fine.”

At this point, Ozuna might be the only Braves position player who deserves to go to the All-Star Game. Atlanta’s pitching staff should be well-represented – Reynaldo López, Max Fried and Chris Sale all have terrific cases to be in Arlington. It would be a shock if none of them make the roster.

It also would be a shame if Ozuna, the season he’s having, isn’t named an All-Star.

The Home Run Derby invite has not come yet, but if it does?

“If they asked me, I’d be fine to compete over there and get that experience,” Ozuna said.

This is for sure: Ozuna in the Home Run Derby would make for a great show.

Extra Innings

* On Thursday, Chris Sale pitched against the White Sox, who drafted him in the first round in 2010. When he came up to the majors, he enjoyed working with pitching coach Don Cooper.

When asked about what sticks with him to this day after learning from Cooper, it was clear that Sale is fond of his old coach.

“Just competing,” Sale said. “I love him. He was always great with me. I could get emotional at times, and he knew how to calm me down, and he knew when to kick me and get me going. I was very fortunate to have him when I was young. I think he was the right guy to get me where I needed to go at that time in my career, so I’ll always be thankful for him.”

Cooper is no longer with the White Sox, but he had an impact on Sale’s career.

* In his last start, which came at Yankee Stadium, right-handed hitters had a difficult time with Max Fried’s changeup away. Fried, who allowed one run over six innings in a win, got important outs with the pitch.

In the bottom of the third inning, Fried got Anthony Volpe to ground into an inning-ending double play with a changeup. In the bottom of the fifth, the first two Yankees made outs on the pitch.

In total, Fried threw his changeup 14 times in that win. The Yankees swung at it 10 times and whiffed twice.

Opponents are hitting only .116 against Fried’s changeup this season – the lowest opponents’ batting average on any of the seven pitches listed for him on Baseball Savant.

“It just gives me something a little bit different,” Fried said of the changeup away to right-handed hitters. “A lot of my pitches predominantly go in to righties, so to be able to have a pitch that I can rely on that goes the other way, it just keeps hitters honest. It’s been a big pitch for me this year.”

In 2024, Fried has thrown 178 changeups to righties, as opposed to only 17 to lefties. There have been only five hits against the pitch – three singles and two doubles.

Fried’s next start will be appointment viewing: He will face Pirates rookie sensation Paul Skenes on Saturday at Truist Park.

* Thus far, A.J. Minter (left hip impingement) has logged two rehab outings – one with High-A Rome, the other with Triple-A Gwinnett. He most recently pitched on Tuesday for Gwinnett, and allowed a run in one inning, with a walk.

In that frame, Minter issued a leadoff walk and threw a wild pitch that allowed the runner to advance to second. The runner took third on a flyout and scored on a groundout.

As of Thursday afternoon, the Braves hadn’t yet scheduled Minter’s next outing. They’re taking it day by day to see how he feels.

Minter is eligible to return from the injured list whenever he’s ready to do so.

* After one of the games at Yankee Stadium, Jarred Kelenic insisted batting leadoff didn’t change his approach. Kelenic mentioned that he was trying to “individualize” his at-bats.

After the first game of Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Cardinals, I asked Kelenic what that meant and if it helped him put other at-bats behind him.

“I just think that allows you to just be present in the box, that’s the biggest thing,” Kelenic said. “And then it removes the emotional side of it. So, I think for me, it’s just being present each and every day.”

* In the first game of Wednesday’s doubleheader, Pierce Johnson (seventh inning), Joe Jiménez (eighth) and Raisel Iglesias (ninth) each logged a scoreless inning to secure the victory.

Jared Burleyson, the Braves’ media relations man, researched a telling nugget for Thursday’s game notes. It shows you how dominant the Braves’ best relievers have been this season.

The Braves are 7-0 when Johnson, Jiménez and Iglesias pitch the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, respectively, this season.

This is remarkable consistency in such a tough job.

“It is,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “They’re very important jobs because you hate to let leads get away. And it happens. It’s just the way of the game. And so that’s just more of a testament to how consistent and how good those guys have been. If you’re gonna have any kind of success as a team, you’re gonna need those guys to be consistent and do the jobs that they’ve been doing.”

Braves Dispatch: The Big Bear on the Home Run Derby: ‘Yeah, I’d do it’ (2024)


Who is the Braves' best home run hitter? ›

The Atlanta Braves player that had scored the greatest number of home runs throughout their career as of January 2024 was Henry Aaron with 733 home runs. This was followed by Eddie Mathews with 493 home runs throughout his career.

Who has the most HR in Braves history? ›

H. Aaron

Who has 300 home runs for the Braves? ›

CHIPPER JONES, 399 -- Braves' third baseman is now tied with Andres Galarraga and Al Kaline in career homers. Jones, who has played his entire career in Atlanta, is the only switch hitter in baseball to have a career batting average above . 300 and more than 300 home runs.

Who is the most famous baseball player in the Braves? ›

Hank Aaron

Who is the number one home run hitter? ›

Barry Bonds holds the record for most career home runs, hitting 762 over his 22-year career.

Who was the oldest Braves player? ›

2004 - At 45-years of age, Julio Franco becomes the oldest player in major league history to hit a grand slam as the Braves beat the Phillies 8-4. 2009 - The Braves acquire outfielder Nate McLouth from the Pirates in exchange for minor league outfielder Gorkys Hernandez and pitchers Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke.

What player has been with the Braves the longest? ›

Ozzie Albies

Albies is now the longest tenured Braves player and has been a multi-time All-Star. The diminutive second baseman just turned 27 and is under team control through the 2026 season thanks to one of the team-friendliest contracts since free agency began five decades ago.

Who is number 1 for the Braves? ›

Atlanta Braves Roster
M. Olson #281B30
O. Arcia #11SS29
O. Albies #12B27
Z. Short #593B29
2 more rows

Who has 300 hits and 500 home runs? ›

Career hits: 3,020

Palmeiro, who also hit 569 home runs in his career, is one of seven players with both 3,000 hits and 500 homers, along with Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, A-Rod, Eddie Murray, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron.

Has any pitcher hit a homerun in the World Series? ›

Jesse Haines

Haines did it all for the Cardinals in Game 3 of the 1926 World Series against the Yankees, tossing a five-hit shutout and also hitting a two-run homer in the fourth inning. It was more than enough run support in the 4-0 victory, en route to St. Louis' seven-game triumph.

Who is the best batter on the Braves? ›

Marcell Ozuna has the highest batting average for the Braves this season, with an average of . 314.

Who hit the homerun for the Braves? ›

Travis d'Arnaud chased Stroman with a two-run homer. Atlanta (42-32) had won seven of its previous eight games. Braves pitchers walked eight, matching their season high, and Atlanta finished with four hits.

Who is the best home run hitter in MLB history? ›

MLB Career Batting Leaders
MLB Career Batting Leaders - Home Runs
1Barry Bonds762
2Hank Aaron755
3Babe Ruth714
17 more rows

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