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Ronald Acuña Jr. will be making his triumphant return to the Atlanta Braves lineup on Thursday.
After being sidelined for the better part of a year, Ronald Acuña Jr. will be back with the Atlanta Braves for the first time this season.
Acuña last played for the Braves at the big-league level right before the All-Star Game. He tore his ACL trying to track down a fly ball on the warning track in Miami. Though Atlanta would go on to win its first World Series title in 26 years in the months to follow, Braves Country has waited patiently for the return of their beloved team’s best player. So why is he being recalled right now?
Here is why Acuña is back in the Braves’ starting lineup more than a week of ahead of schedule. Acuña was slated to make his return on May 6, but will play in the series finale of Atlanta’s three-game slate with the Chicago Cubs on April 28.
Ronald Acuña Jr. returns: Why Atlanta Braves star is back ahead of schedule
3. The Atlanta Braves’ slow start to the 2022 MLB season probably contributed
Yes, one can argue the Braves’ early-season record of 8-11 has contributed to Acuña’s premature return to the Atlanta lineup. While last year’s team proved that being below .500 for extended stretches is not the end of the world, keep in mind this one very important thing. Though a team cannot win a division title/pennant after a hot start, it can sure fall out of a race with a slow one.
It is only the final days of April, but the Braves are already 5.5 games back of the division-leading New York Mets in the NL East race. Though the Mets could come crashing back to earth because they are who they are, only the rebuilding Washington Nationals have gotten off to a slower start in the division than Atlanta. Washington is 8.5 games back of the Mets with a pitiful 6-15 record.
While the thought of bringing back Acuña essentially a week early probably does not change the overall dynamic of Atlanta’s season one way or another, what it does is provide a much-needed spark the defending World Series champions are in dire need of. His mere presence in the lineup, on the base paths and especially in the outfield will be a godsend to the entire Braves franchise.
If the Braves were playing better out of the gate, it would not have hastened Acuña’s early return.