ATLANTA — Ronald Acuña Jr. said he isn't motivated by another try for a rare 40-40 season.
The bigger goal is to give the Atlanta Braves their first postseason series win in almost 20 years.
Acuña, who turned 22 in December, hit 41 home runs and stole 37 bases last season. He sat out the last week of the regular season with a hip injury that ended his 40-40 hopes.
"I feel like there's always time for that," Acuña, who is from Venezuela, said through a translator last month.
The Braves swept the Houston Astros in a National League Division Series in 2001 before falling 4-1 in the NL Championship Series to the Arizona Diamondbacks, who went on to beat the New York Yankees in a World Series that went seven games. Atlanta lost in the NLDS the next four seasons as it completed a run of 14 straight division titles, and five more postseason appearances since then have also been fruitless.
The Braves are coming off back-to-back NL East titles that were followed by disappointing first-round exits, including last year's crushing 13-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in the decisive Game 5 of their NLDS.
Veteran first baseman Freddie Freeman said "it's our turn" for postseason success. Braves fans would say that is long overdue, with Atlanta's 10 straight postseason series defeats tied for a dubious MLB record.
The Braves, who won 97 games last season, may be stronger after adding outfielder Marcell Ozuna — a big part of the Cardinals' postseason success against Atlanta — to replace third baseman Josh Donaldson as the cleanup hitter. Other key additions are reliever Will Smith, veteran left-hander Cole Hamels and catcher Travis d'Arnaud.
Freeman said the Braves' "hunger is real" as they plan to report to their new spring training home in North Port, Florida. Pitchers and catchers are due Wednesday, with the first full-squad workout five days later.
Atlanta general manager Alex Anthopoulos signed the 29-year-old Ozuna to an $18 million, one-year deal after the 34-year-old Donaldson — who was with Atlanta on a one-year deal in 2019 — signed a four-year contract with the Minnesota Twins that takes him back to the American League, where he has played most of his career. Johan Camargo and Austin Riley will compete at third base, and Ozuna will play left field, joining Acuña in a suddenly crowded position group.
Atlanta manager Brian Snitker must figure out the new outfield mix. He could keep Acuña in right field and start Ender Inciarte in center field, which would leave Adam Duvall and Nick Markakis on the bench. If Acuña starts in center, Duvall and Markakis could platoon. A trade could help relieve the congestion.
Outfielders Cristian Pache and Drew Waters, two of the organization's top position prospects, will be watched closely and could be hoping to impress this spring with an eye on starting in 2021.
The infield is mostly settled, with Freeman, second baseman Ozzie Albies and shortstop Dansby Swanson locked in and d'Arnaud set to share time with Tyler Flowers behind the plate. Third base is a concern, though. Riley showed great power potential in his first few weeks as a rookie last season before slumping badly. Camargo has impressed Snitker with his offseason conditioning and determination to return to his 2018 form.
Smith could challenge Mark Melancon for the closer's job, and Hamels joins Mike Foltynewicz, Max Fried and Mike Soroka — who could be the new No. 1 starter — in the rotation. Rookie right-handers Ian Anderson, Bryse Wilson and Kyle Wright are among the candidates to compete with left-hander Sean Newcomb and veteran Félix Hernández for the No. 5 spot.
Anderson, Wilson and Wright hope to break into the rotation the way Fried and Soroka became established starters in 2019. Even so, the comeback attempt by "King Felix" will be the feel-good story of the spring. Hernández is only 33, but the six-time All-Star and 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner had a 6.40 ERA in 15 starts with the Seattle Mariners last season.
The Braves open the regular season at Arizona on March 26. Their first home game at newly renamed Truist Park will be against the Miami Marlins on April 3.