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When will Ronald Acuna Jr. return this season?

Acuna is still recovering for a July knee injury, but his 2022 debut may not be too far away.

New York Mets v Atlanta Braves Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

The Atlanta Braves completed their run to a World Series championship in 2022 without their offensive catalyst, Ronald Acuna Jr. They will begin the 2022 season without him as well, but Acuna’s return to action is not that far off.

Ronald Acuna Jr. injury update

April 17 update: Acuna is beginning a rehab assignment Tuesday at Triple-A Gwinnett, which means the Braves star is a step closer to returning to the lineup. After tearing his ACL and missing the World Series run last season, Acuna should be raring to go for the 2022 campaign.

The star outfielder, who is about nine months removed from suffering a torn ACL in his right knee, is eyeing an early May return to the Braves’ lineup. He didn’t participate in any Spring Training games and won’t be seen in April, but with the advent of the universal designated hitter, Acuna will probably split his time between the outfield and DH when he comes back.

Although his body is not quite yet at 100%, Acuna’s bat seems perfectly fine right now. A few weeks ago, Acuna took batting practice with his Braves teammates and slammed a home run off the scoreboard at the team’s Spring Training ballpark. As the ball landed, Acuna strode out of the cage and confidently exclaimed, “I’m back.”

Acuna almost posted a 40-homer, 40-steal season in 2019. He was on pace for about 45 homers and 30 steals before his injury last year. We’ll see if his knee injury makes him less likely to run, but he is still going to hit with authority. The 24-year-old ranked in the 97th percentile last season in average exit velocity and hard-hit rate. That’s not going anywhere.

The Braves will cover the season’s first month without Acuna by employing Eddie Rosario in right field. Last year’s NLCS MVP had seven homers and a .903 OPS in 33 games during the 2021 regular season with Atlanta. He’s a sufficient replacement until Acuna is ready to go.

But there is no way to truly replace Acuna, one of the brightest stars in Major League Baseball. The game is better off when he’s on the field, and it looks like he will be come the first week of May.