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Friday January 21st, 2022 9:37PM

LEADING OFF: Braves await tests on Acuña, MLB draft starts

By The Associated Press
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A look at what's happening around the majors on Sunday:

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ANXIOUS ABOUT ACUÑA

Atlanta is awaiting test results after All-Star outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. was carted off the field in tears Saturday with a right knee injury.

Acuña landed awkwardly after jumping on the warning track in right field trying to catch a drive from Miami’s Jazz Chisholm Jr. in the fifth inning. He slammed into the outfield wall and crumbled on the warning track, immediately grabbing his right knee while Chisholm sprinted out an inside-the-park homer.

Acuña tried to walk off but dropped back to the ground in shallow right field. Trainers tended to him while a cart was retrieved, and concerned teammates gathered quietly around him.

Tears welled in the 23-year-old’s eyes as he waited. When the cart pulled around to the nearby warning track, he had to be helped over and did not put any weight on his right leg.

“He’s in a lot of pain, I can tell you that. It’s a tough break for the team and for him,” manager Brian Snitker said.

Acuña is slated to start in the outfield for the NL All-Star team in Tuesday’s game, his third appearance. He is hitting .283 with 24 home runs and 52 RBIs for the three-time defending NL East champions, who are in second place behind the New York Mets.

DRAFT DAY

A year after Major League Baseball limited its draft amid the chaos of COVID-19, it’s set to host a revamped event as part of All-Star festivities in Denver.

The 20-round draft will span three days, with Round 1 slated for primetime Sunday. MLB moved the draft to July’s All-Star weekend, putting the opening round on its network right after the All-Star Futures Game, a showcase for the top players in the minors.

The Pirates hold the No. 1 overall pick. Vanderbilt pitcher Jack Leiter could be in play for the Buccos, along with prep shortstops Marcelo Mayer, Jordan Lawlar and Kahlil Watson, and Louisville catcher Henry Davis.

One more name to know: California high school shortstop Max Muncy, who could also go on Day 1. Despite sharing a name and a birthday with the Los Angeles Dodgers slugger, the two aren’t related.

WHAT A TURNAROUND

Assured of entering the All-Star break atop the AL East after finishing last season with their second-worst winning percentage in 88 years, Rafael Devers and the Red Sox host Philadelphia at Fenway Park to close the first half.

J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts and Boston went just 24-36 (.400) in last year’s pandemic-shortened season, the team's worst winning percentage since playing .383 ball (62-100) in 1965.

Former Philadelphia righty Nick Pivetta (7-3, 4.09 ERA) starts for the Red Sox in the series wrapup against the Phillies. It will be Pivetta’s first start against the team that dealt him to Boston last August.

Pivetta is coming off a splendid outing when he fanned a season-high 10 over seven innings of two-hit shutout ball in a victory at Oakland last Sunday. Right-hander Aaron Nola (6-5, 4.53) is slated to go for Philly.

ON A ROLL

José Abreu and the White Sox go for their fifth straight win when they close out a three-game series at Baltimore. Dylan Cease (7-4, 4.14 ERA) starts for the AL Central leaders, and Spenser Watkins (1-0, 1.50 ERA) pitches for the Orioles.

The White Sox have won nine of 12 overall, and it looks as if help is on the way. Slugger Eloy Jiménez homered Saturday for Class A Winston-Salem in his first rehabilitation assignment game. Jiménez is coming back after he ruptured his left pectoral tendon during spring training.

A-OK

The Oakland Athletics now have an All-Star pitcher starting their final game before the break.

Chris Bassitt (9-2, 3.41 ERA), added to the AL team Saturday as an injury replacement, starts the series finale in Texas. He is 9-0 over his last 16 starts, the longest winning streak by a pitcher in the majors this year. That includes back-to-back wins over the Rangers in late June when he gave up only one run in 14 innings.

Manager Bob Melvin said the A’s were elated at Bassitt becoming a first-time All-Star, and recognized the right-hander with a small ceremony in the clubhouse Saturday before beating Texas 8-4 in 11 innings.

Melvin said the A’s are certainly OK with Bassitt pitching one inning in the All-Star Game on Tuesday, which would be his normal bullpen day between starts.

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More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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