Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. tore the ACL in his left knee during Monday’s game vs. the San Diego Padres and will miss the rest of the season. However, the rookie is going to be prepared for his return to the field.
On Friday, Ronald Acuna Jr. spoke at length on his recovery from a torn ligament in his right knee and how he is going to continue to be a superhuman when he returns. In an interview with MLB Network, he said that he “absolutely” felt he could make a significant impact this season for the Braves. “I think we’re going to have a special season,” he told the network. “I think one of the best memories I have in my baseball career is last year. I couldn’t have asked for anything better. I just want to carry that momentum over to this year and make that season last forever.”
Atlanta Braves star Ronald Acuna Jr. has worked hard to reach the stratosphere of Major League Baseball. A day after suffering an ACL tear in his right knee, Akuna vowed to work harder than ever to stay in it.
All I can say is that, of course, I will do my best to come back stronger than ever, Acuna said through his interpreter Franco Garcia in a phone interview with the Braves on Sunday. If I used to give 500%, now I’m going to give 1000%.
Acuna was injured Saturday in Atlanta’s 5-4 victory over the Marlins when he landed awkwardly on the warning track while chasing a ball fired by Miami’s Jazz Chisholm Jr. Akuna painfully grabbed a knee as Chisholm rounded the bases and hit an inside-the-park home run.
The match was suspended for more than 10 minutes after Akuna tried to leave the field, but failed to do so under his own power. As he was carried off in a car, cameras saw an emotional Akuna burst into tears after an injury that seemed to herald the end of his season, though he says he didn’t know about it at first.
I knew something was wrong, Akuna said. I don’t think I realized how serious it was until the doctor told me later. There’s nothing I can do now. I can’t control what I can’t control.
Last Saturday, the Braves announced on social media that Akuna had indeed suffered a complete tear in his ACL and would have surgery. According to Jeff Passan of ESPN, Acuna is expected to be out for nine to 10 months, which could cause him to miss the start of the 2022 season.
No matter how long it takes, Akuna vows to come back as good as when he fell.
I think I’m a patient person, and I think that will work in my favor, Akuna said. Keep working hard and have faith in the rehabilitation process. Keep working hard. You get what you put into it.
Akuna would not say anything about a timetable for his possible return and said the surgery has not yet been scheduled. He is now preparing to head to Colorado for the All-Star Game, as scheduled, where he would start in the National League outfield.
(Participating) means a lot to me, Akuna said. In the same sense, the fans who voted for me deserve it as much as I do. I wouldn’t be here without it.
Before his injury, Acuna had another outstanding season, winning his first MVP award. This season, he leads the Braves in batting average (.283), home runs (24) and stolen bases (17) and leads all major league players in runs scored with 72.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Acuna is only the fifth player to have tallied at least 100 home runs and 75 stolen bases at age 23 or younger, alongside Mike Trout, Andruw Jones, Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr.
This guy is probably the best player in the game right now, Braves manager Brian Snitker said. It will be difficult to replace. Someone will get a chance, whether it’s someone from this club or outside, who knows? That’s what we do in our work, we keep going, we keep playing.
With Saturday’s win, Atlanta pushed the Braves’ season record to 44-44. The three-time defending NL East champions have struggled with injuries and inconsistency all season. Sunday’s game against Miami was their seventh chance this season to get above .500. Atlanta has lost its last six games in this situation. While the Braves’ goals for the season will be harder to achieve without Akuna, he at least has confidence in his teammates.
When I heard the news (about the ACL), I was very sad, Akuna said. I love to play, and that’s what I want to do – be able to play. I am very angry and disappointed in the team. I know they need me and I want to be there to help them. I have complete faith in my teammates that they will work hard, and I know they will do well.
As for Akuna’s remarkable start to his career, he can look to the career of New York Yankees legend Mickey Mantle, who suffered a devastating knee injury in the 1951 World Series, but went on to become one of the best players in baseball.
During the 2018 playoffs, Acuna, then 20, broke Mantle’s record as the youngest player to hit a grand slam in the postseason by ousting Walker Buehler of the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 3 of the Division Series. After the match, Akuna admitted that he had never heard of Mantle and said: I wasn’t even born yet.
Now he and Mantle are connected in another way that no MLB fan wanted to see. Still, Snitker believes there’s no reason why Akuna shouldn’t end up where Mantle is: Cooperstown.
It’s just another punch in the gut that we have to overcome, Snitker said. But you know what, he’s a strong young man. He will recover very well and continue his career in the Hall of Fame when his career is over.
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