Acuña on hand to support Braves in NLCS

October 18th, 2021

ATLANTA -- Ronald Acuña Jr. will have to wait at least six more months before reintroducing himself to the thrill of playing in a game. But in the meantime, he’ll do whatever he can to help his Braves teammates, who were happy to have him around for Games 1 and 2 of the National League Championship Series at Truist Park.

“Honestly, this is one the hardest moments of my career, to be here at the stadium and not be able to join my teammates out there,” Acuña said through an interpreter Sunday before Game 2. "There’s nothing you can do about that. So for me, it’s just about being here and continuing to give support as if I was playing."

That support may have worked. The Braves took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series after Eddie Rosario, one of the outfielders acquired before the Trade Deadline to help make up for Acuña's lost production, ripped a walk-off RBI single to cap off a four-hit game, giving Atlanta a 5-4 victory.

Acuña is still walking with a slight limp as he continues to recover from the torn right anterior cruciate ligament he sustained July 10 in Miami. But the 23-year-old superstar was still flashing his patented smile as he interacted with Braves teammates and fellow Venezuelan Josef Martínez, who tore his ACL while playing for Atlanta United in March 2020.

After spending the first two months recovering from surgery in California, Acuña returned to Atlanta to continue a rehab process that will likely last at least 10 months. The opportunity to work out at Truist Park has allowed him to interact with his teammates and coaches.

“I feel good, but in the same sense, I feel as good as I did about two months ago,” Acuña said. “It’s kind of been a gradual process. But if I had to put a percentage on it, I’d say I’m about 70 percent. But that’s just my personal opinion as far as I’m feeling. But as far as the return and where I’m actually at, I leave those decisions up to the doctors and trainers.”

Acuña was set to make his second career All-Star start before he sustained his injury three days before the Midsummer Classic. He was building a strong NL MVP Award résumé and further cementing his status as one of the best young stars baseball has seen in some time.

If Acuña continues to make progress over the next few weeks, he hopes to begin jogging exercises in December. His progress over the winter will determine when he could return to Atlanta’s lineup. The expectation is he will remain sidelined until at least May. 

“I don’t have a date in mind,” Acuña said. “It’s a knee. The knee is a big focal point in terms of structure and stability for any athlete. So I’m going to take my time with it for sure.”