Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
Things got chippy during the series opener between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves, as the usually-calm Will Smith exchanged words with Marcell Ozuna after he was struck by the designated hitter’s backswing in the fourth inning.
Ozuna flied out to left field and walked back to home plate before coming face-to-face with Smith. Both bullpens cleared and players spilled out of the dugouts, but home-plate umpire Alan Porter separated the two players without issue and play resumed.
Smith expressed frustration with Ozuna’s follow-through swing because he was previously hit by him and noted other catchers have been as well. Smith’s concern was likely heightened because he suffered a concussion last month and is still experiencing lingering symptoms.
Ozuna claimed he apologized to Smith but was frustrated for essentially being called out to correct his swing, per Fabian Ardaya and David O’Brien of The Athletic:
Ozuna said he apologized in the moment to the Dodgers backstop (though Smith disputed that Monday night). But the 32-year-old slugger’s ire came from Smith’s reaction, saying the catcher “showed me up in front of everybody here.”
“He said, ‘No, you’ve got to fix it,’” Ozuna said. “I said, ‘I’ve got to fix it, why? You want me to change my mechanics? If you throw an inside pitch, you’re trying to steal a strike, what do you want me to do? I’m gonna swing like that.’”
Smith again had words for Ozuna in the sixth inning before that at-bat ended on a leadoff single. Ozuna went 2-for-3 with one RBI and a walk in the series opener.
In the second game of the series on Tuesday, Smith noted that he moved further back in the batter’s box for all of Ozuna’s at-bats. Smith, like many catchers, usually sets up close to hitters to help frame pitches for strikes.
Despite leaving more distance in the series finale, Smith was again struck by Ozuna’s bat on his home run Wednesday. It’s unclear if Smith starting to come out of the crouch to prepare for a throw down to second base was a factor in being hit in his left shoulder.
Marcell Ozuna backswing history
Ozuna has also clipped Austin Barnes with his backswing, along with J.T. Realmuto and Sean Murphy, among others.
Although it is a consistent issue for Ozuna, he has refused to make an attempt at correcting the problem, and even places the blame on catchers for getting hit.
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