Acuña hits homer, then declares: 'I'm back'

March 14th, 2022

NORTH PORT, Fla. -- With the final swing of his batting-practice session on Monday afternoon, Ronald Acuña Jr. connected with a pitch, took a couple steps toward the first-base dugout and yelled, “I’m back,” just before the baseball ricocheted off the scoreboard located beyond the left-field wall at CoolToday Park.

“He looked really good, really good,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I think he’s right where they want him to be. It was pretty impressive what he did out there.”

Eight months after tearing his right ACL, Acuña is again starting to look like the young superstar he has become since making his MLB debut in 2018. The 24-year-old spent the winter working out and rehabbing in Los Angeles.

“If it was up to me, I’d say I’ll be ready for Opening Day,” Acuña said through an interpreter. “But we all know that is not up to me. Either way, I’m just going to be ready for whenever the trainers and medical staff and everyone tell me I can play.”

Acuña may not be cleared to play before the Braves open the upcoming season against the Reds on April 7 at Truist Park. But over the next few weeks, he’s going to do all he can to convince the Braves he doesn’t need to miss more than a small part of the season’s first month.

“He's young and strong,” Snitker said. “There's a point when guys are coming off Tommy John surgeries that they feel really strong. It’s the same with this knee surgery. You’ve got to trust the medical advice and follow the plan, because we want him to stay healthy throughout the year.”

Acuña has spent the past couple of months taking batting practice, and he has already completed both defensive and baserunning drills.

“I’ve done it all,” Acuña said. “I think all that’s left is playing.”