As the Braves look to close out their series with a win against the Cardinals on Sunday Night Baseball, outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. will be out of the starting lineup for a second straight game. Similar to previous times this season when he has been out of the lineup for a day or two, Atlanta and Acuna Jr. are managing his return to full form coming off his torn ACL injury in July of 2021.
Acuña said he felt knee pain in recent days, mostly running. He was assured it's normal in the year after surgery, but said he's just not familiar with these issues because he's never been through it. #Braves giving him a few days with off day Monday. He's available off bench.— David O'Brien (@DOBrienATL) August 28, 2022
Acuña expects to be back in the lineup on Tuesday. The Braves decided it would be best to take advantage of him getting three straight days (last two games of STL series and tomorrow's offday) of rest. Acuña says the knee bothers him more running than hitting.— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) August 28, 2022
While any news of leg injuries for Acuna Jr. is likely concerning to see coming off his season-ending injury in 2021, it seems that this is merely Atlanta remaining cautious with his playing time. Acuna Jr. mentioned that he has noticed pain in his knee more in recent days, especially when running. Thankfully, he was told this was common in returning to normal playing time after an ACL injury. There seems to be optimism that he will return to the lineup on Tuesday as the Braves face the Rockies in Atlanta.
There is plenty of logic in the Braves remaining cautious with Acuna Jr. Though Atlanta has the chance to pull to within 1 1⁄2 games of the Mets for the NL East division lead with a win on Sunday night, Acuna Jr.’s health remains a top priority. While winning the division is certainly significant, having Acuna Jr. as healthy and fresh as possible for the postseason, and thus allowing for the Braves to be at their best, is even more important.
Fortunately, Acuna Jr. has looked more like his old self in recent weeks than he did for most of June and July. From June 15th to July 31st, Acuna Jr. produced a .222/.305/.289 batting line at the plate, along with a .594 OPS and 70 wRC+ mark (151 plate appearances). Since August 1st, Acuna Jr. has produced a .319/.410/.451 batting line at the plate, along with an .861 OPS and 141 wRC+ mark (105 plate appearances.)
Not only has Acuna Jr. played more frequently in August, his offensive production has significantly improved. Hopefully that trend will continue once he returns to the lineup over the next few days.