The Braves are going to begin their quest to repeat as World Series champions on Thursday, when they face the Reds at home. Freddie Freeman will be perhaps the most notable absence from the lineup as the banner is hoisted at Truist Park, but there will be another key player from the team that will also be out.
Ronald Acuna Jr., who missed the second half of last season with a torn ACL, will begin the 2022 season on the 10-day injured list as he continues to work his way back from injury.
Especially without Freeman, Acuna will be the most important player in the lineup for Atlanta in 2022 as they look to win the title again.
MLB PREDICTIONS: The Sporting News experts pick division winners, awards, World Series champ
How long will he be out of the aware lineup? The Sporting News takes a look:
Ronald Acuna Jr. injury timeline
Back on July 10 last year, Acuna made a leaping attempt to try and catch a line drive from Marlins second baseman Jazz Chisholm. He fell to the ground awkwardly and needed to be helped off the field.
Ronald Acuña Jr. has left the game with an apparent knee injury after attempting an outfield catch. pic.twitter.com/tIbuyXOQUd
– FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) July 10, 2021
It was revealed after the game that Acuna had torn the ACL in his right leg, and he immediately underwent surgery to repair his knee. At the time of his injury, he had slashed .283 / .394 / .596 with 24 home runs and 17 stolen bases in 82 games.
FOSTER: 22 things I really want to see during the 2022 MLB season
At the time, it was just reported that his season was over.
During the offseason, Acuna had been rehabbing in Los Angeles, according to MLB.com.
When could Ronald Acuna Jr. return from injury?
Acuna is beginning the season on the 10-day injured list, which leaves open the possibility of him returning early in the season. According to MLB.com, the Braves are hoping he can return to the lineup in the first week of May.
Acuna had originally hoped to begin the season playing right out of the gate, but the Braves reportedly believed he would be ready for the final week of April to serve as the designated hitter, exclusively.
FAGAN: Five big questions in the NL East, starting with the World Series champion Braves
Per the MLB.com report, the plan now is for Acuna to return, in part, as a designated hitter as well as in the outfield. Allowing Acuna to do both in alternating days would keep his bat in the lineup and help ease him back into regular playing duties.
“He’s got to go through the process,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said, according to MLB.com. “There [are] timelines the doctors have. He’s doing everything. He’s right where he needs to be at this point in the rehab. “Everybody feels really good about where he is at.”
Ronald Acuna Jr. injury history
Acuna does not have an extensive history of injuries. In 2018, his rookie season, he sustained a mild ACL sprain in his left knee and was out from May 27 until June 29. He finished that campaign strong, slashing .293 / .366 / .552 with 26 home runs and 16 stolen bases in 111 games, earning him NL Rookie of the Year.
MLB OPENING DAY POWER RANKINGS: Dodgers sit at No. 1; Braves, Blue Jays look strong
The next year, he played in 156 games, only missing a few games toward the end of the season with a minor hip injury, but he was back for Atlanta’s NLDS against the Cardinals and appeared in all five games.
In 2020, Acuna was placed on the 10-day injured list for only the second time in his career with left wrist inflammation. He was out of the lineup from Aug. 11 until he returned for a doubleheader on Aug. 26. In the COVID-19-shortened season, he posted a then-career-best .987 OPS with 14 home runs and eight stolen bases in 46 games.