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Braves slugger Marcell Ozuna was booed by the Atlanta home crowd Sunday in the veteran outfielder’s first appearance since being arrested on a driving under the influence charge.
Ozuna was booked early Friday and released on bond later that morning. It was the second arrest in as many years for Ozuna, who also was arrested in May 2021 on charges of aggravated assault by strangulation and battery after police officers said they witnessed him attacking his wife. Those charges were dropped after he completed a pretrial diversion program.
Ozuna, the No. 8 hitter in Atlanta’s lineup against the Houston Astros, was greeted with a smattering of boos at Truist Park before his first at-bat Sunday in the second inning. The boos were much louder after Ozuna struck out against Astros right-hander Jose Urquidy.
Ozuna was booed again after another strikeout against Urquidy in the fifth inning. He was lifted for pinch-hitter Eddie Rosario later in the game and finished 0-for-2 in the Braves’ 5-4 loss.
“I didn’t want Eddie, with his hamstring, to play. Ronald [Acuna] was going to DH, so we had to have somebody in left,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said when asked after the game why he started Ozuna. “I told Marcell, he’s part of this team. He’s going to play left field. … He’s on our team right now, he’s a member of our team. We’re going to play him as needed.”
Ozuna, asked after the game if he was annoyed or motivated by the boos, said his reaction was the latter.
“It’s kind of a motivator. Just don’t listen to whatever they’re saying, keep my head up and do my best,” he said.
The game marked the first appearance since Aug. 14 for Ozuna, who did not play in the first six games of Atlanta’s seven-game homestand. Snitker said Friday that he spoke to Ozuna but did not provide details about their conversation. Snitker said he didn’t know whether Ozuna will face a suspension.
The Braves issued a statement Friday after Ozuna’s arrest, saying the “organization takes these matters very seriously and are obviously disappointed by the situation” but declining to comment further, citing the ongoing legal situation. Ozuna did not take questions Friday and made a brief statement to reporters, saying he “disappointed my team” and “disappointed my family.”
Ozuna, 31, is in his third season in Atlanta and in the second year of a $65 million, four-year contract. He batted .338 and led the National League with 18 home runs and 56 RBIs in 2020 but has dropped below .215 for two consecutive seasons.
Ozuna entered Sunday batting .214 with 20 homers and 46 RBIs this season — substandard production that led to reduced playing time even before his arrest Friday.
Following his 2021 arrest, Ozuna was placed on administrative leave during an MLB investigation and missed Atlanta’s World Series championship run. He was then suspended for 20 games under MLB’s domestic violence policy in November. The suspension was retroactive to Sept. 10 and covered the final 24 days of the 2021 regular season, allowing him to return for the start of this season.
The pretrial diversion program that led to the previous charges being dropped included three to six months of supervision, a 24-week family violence intervention program, at least 200 hours of community service and an anger management course.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.