Emotional Acuña grapples with 2nd ACL rehab, understanding the road ahead

Superstar to undergo surgery to repair torn ligament on Tuesday

May 30th, 2024

ATLANTA -- will undergo surgery to repair the torn ACL in his left knee on Tuesday, he said while addressing his season-ending injury for the first time Thursday at Truist Park. Dr. Neil ElAttrache will perform the operation in Los Angeles.

“Sometimes these things are blessings in disguise,” Acuña said through interpreter Franco García. “Sometimes you gotta lose yourself to find yourself, and I think that's how I'm trying to approach this thing. I just want to take everything in stride and who knows, maybe I can come back and win another MVP.”

Acuña called the extensive outpouring of support in the wake of his injury “overwhelming. ... That’s what finds me crying at home by myself, because I feel like I’m the one abandoning the team.”

“It feels like I'm the one letting everyone down,” he said. “But there's nothing I can do. Just continue to work hard to heal.”

On that front, Acuña said he will remain in Los Angeles for “a month or a month and a half” post-op to begin his rehab before rejoining the Braves. There is no real timetable for his return after that, other than that he and the Braves know he won’t return in 2024.

In 2021, when Acuña Jr. had the same injury to his other knee, it took a little more than nine months for him to return to the field. But he really wasn’t fully healthy again until 2023, when he won National League MVP honors with a historic season.

Given that timeline, it’s possible to envision Acuña playing by Spring Training 2025 at some point, and maybe even ready by Opening Day. But he’s not thinking that far ahead yet. Acuña stopped short of putting a timeline on his return Thursday, saying the biggest lesson he learned from his first ACL rehab was “patience.”

“I’ll be ready when the team says I’m ready,” he said. “I'm just hopeful that the surgery goes well, the rehab goes well, and everything goes according to plan.”

Acuña said his injury has been easier to process this time around because he knows what to expect having gone through it only three years ago. But still, he knows he’s in for a grueling next six months or so, both physically and mentally. He said his “goal is to come back as a better player and a better person.”

“He does know what he’s in for,” said manager Brian Snitker. “That’s good and bad. I feel worse for him than I do for us, because the kid loves to play baseball. It’s a lot of work to get back when you go through an injury like that. It takes a lot of work, dedication, determination and mental strength in order to come through that. He’s done it before, and he’ll do it again. He’s young and strong and this will be just a little blip in a really great career.”

Acuña emphasized how much he’ll lean on his family during this difficult time, including his young sons, Ronald and Jamal.

“My family has been a big difference-maker. Them there every single day -- your mom, your parents, your kids -- I think has been just the real sort of key,” Acuña said. “The other day, when I was at home, I found myself crying, and I looked over and [my kids] are laughing. They don't know any different. They’re kids. But just being able to see them laugh like that, and just have family around, it's what you’re doing it for, and it helps you get through it.”

Said Snitker: “I’ve seen the kid mature into an adult, a father. He came at such a young age. But he’s matured as a ballplayer, a person, a father, the whole thing. I see him in the hallways with his kids, and it’s really cool, because he looks like a really nice dad. He really enjoys his family. That’ll be a big strength for him getting through this."