Braves Star Ronald Acuña Jr. to Begin Rehab Assignment

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Pittsburgh Pirates
Jul 7, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Atlanta Braves right fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. (13) at bat against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the fifth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta Braves star outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. is set to begin a minor league rehab assignment on Tuesday as he works his way back from ACL surgery.

Acuña Jr. tore his ACL in early July while tracking a flyball near the fence in right field. The 24-year-old All-Star went down in a heap, and the game was delayed for more than 10 minutes after the initially tried to walk off the field. After the ACL diagnosis was confirmed, Acuña Jr. underwent reconstructive surgery and has been inching closer to a return these last few weeks.

Jul 10, 2021; Miami, Florida, USA; Atlanta Braves right fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. (13) walks off the field toward the dugout after getting check on by training staff after an apparent leg injury during the fifth inning against the Miami Marlins at loanDepot Park. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

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Acuña Jr. is one of the league’s brightest stars, hitting .283 with 24 home runs, 72 runs, 52 RBIs, and 17 stolen bases in just 82 games last year. In 2019, his last full season, he hit .280 with 41 home runs, 127 runs, 101 RBIs, and 37 stolen bases. Needless to say, the Braves’ offense is an entirely different animal when he’s in the lineup.

On Tuesday, the star outfielder will play his first game of the season when he suits up for the organization’s Triple-A affiliate in Gwinnett. While there is no set timetable for when the star outfielder will return, Braves manager Brian Snitker said, “It’s winding down to where we can get him back,” which seems to imply that Acuña Jr. won’t need too many rehab games, provided that his knee responds well to the stress of a game.

With Major League Baseball now adopting a universal DH, Acuña Jr. will also have the ability to hit while not having to play the field every day. This will allow the team to keep his potent bat in the lineup without having to strain his surgically repaired knee any more than it needs to be.

His return will be a welcome sight for the defending World Series champions, who are off to a slow start at 5-6 on the season. While they are tied for 7th with 46 runs scored, their team batting average is 17th at just .229, and their on-base percentage of .316 ranks just 15th. With Acuña Jr. back in the lineup, the champs may be ready to go on a run.