Products You May Like
Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr., nine months after a season-ending ACL tear, is back taking batting practice and looking back to his old self.
Last July, on a Saturday afternoon in Miami, the Atlanta Braves’ hopes of winning the World Series appeared to crumble in the loanDepot Park outfield.
Ronald Acuna Jr., having himself an MVP-caliber season up to that point, was standing in right field when Jazz Chisholm hit a line drive in the bottom half of the fifth inning. Acuna attempted to make a leaping catch at the wall. Instead, he came down awkwardly on his right leg and didn’t get back up, hiding his head in his hands while being checked by trainers. The diagnosis was devastating both for the Braves and their 23-year-old superstar: a torn right ACL that would end his season.
The Braves season, of course, did not end there but extended up to Game 6 of the World Series, when they celebrated the franchise’s first title in 26 years on the field in Houston. Acuna watched the entire postseason as his teammates won the World Series without him.
Exactly five months after the now-departed Freddie Freeman squeezed the final out, and nearly nine months after the injury, Acuna seems poised to make a remarkable comeback. David O’Brien of The Athletic posted a video of Acuna taking batting practice on Saturday at the Braves’ Spring Training facility in North Port, Florida. Facing sidearm right-hander Darren O’Day, the at-bat was punctuated by the familiar loud crack of the bat as Acuna lined a ball to left field before walking off.
Acuna is still not ready for action. He hasn’t played in any actual games for the Braves this spring and won’t be ready when they open the season and try to defend their title. But the fact he’s taking live at-bats, swinging freely, and showing he hasn’t lost any power in his bat, is a relief to the team and baseball fans across Georgia.
Acuna, Braves eye early May return to the lineup
The plan, according to General Manager Alex Anthopoulos, is not to rush Acuna back before he’s ready to both face opposing pitchers and play in the outfield.
“It’s been fluid. He’s doing really well. So now it’s a matter of what’s the best thing for him. Obviously, his career is going to come first,” Anthopoulos said on Chris Russo’s MLB Network show on March 24. “I think we’re looking more like the first week of May now. We have a good chance of having him ready to be a complete two-way player, both the outfield and being able to hit.”
Anthopoulos had to make drastic changes to the Braves lineup after losing Acuna last July. All three of their starting outfielders in their World Series-clinching victory, not to mention series MVP Jorge Soler, weren’t even on the team when Acuna got hurt. It was all in an ultimately successful attempt to fill in—for Acuna could never be fully replaced—for one of baseball’s premier talents.
At the time of the injury, Acuna led the Majors in runs scored, was fifth in home runs, and was one of only five players with at least 20 homers and 10 stolen bases. His .990 OPS would’ve ranked third in the National League behind only Bryce Harper and Juan Soto. He was on pace for 44 home runs, 96 RBI, and 31 stolen bases and would’ve joined Jeff Bagwell and Barry Bonds as the only players to reach 40 homers and 30 stolen bases in a season twice.
All that was lost on that afternoon in July. But he’s getting closer to a triumphant return, and by the looks of O’Brien’s video, he’s still going to be the spectacular player he always has been.