ATLANTA — First, it was the countless questions on when he was going to make his major league debut. Now, Ronald Acuña Jr. finds himself in another loop, being pressed about his return from knee injury.
“These things happen,” the Braves rookie outfielder laughed when asked through an interpreter Thursday about the constant injury questions. “If you all ask, I answer.”
On the disabled list since May 28 with a mild left knee sprain and left knee contusion there is no timetable on his return, but Acuña is making progress. He went through a workout before the series opener against the Padres and will run the bases Friday and Saturday.
“He hit today on the field,” said manager Brian Snitker. “Tomorrow and Saturday (he’s going to run) and Saturday will be more accelerated bases. It will be his first one that they’ll have him go hard at it. They’re going to do the mild one tomorrow and then Saturday they’ll have him get after it a bit.”
The Braves are being extremely cautious with their 20-year-old wunderkind, who was stopped in his tracks after slashing .265/.326/.453 with seven doubles, five home runs and 13 RBI through 29 games.
The injury, suffered May 27 in Boston, was no where near as severe as it initially looked with a diagnosis of a mild left knee sprain and left knee contusion along with a lower back contusion.
As he works his way back, Acuña has had to learn a hard lesson.
“Patience, definitely,” he said. “I’ve had to learn patience over the last week. Kind of going through this process, you start to feel better and you see it with other players where they rush the comeback and they start to feel better and they rush the healing process. Then they complicate the recovery and they start hurting themselves worse.
The Braves have gone 9-7 since Acuña hit the DL, taking a one-game lead over the Nationals into the start of the San Diego series. While they’ve had strong play in left field from Charlie Culberson, who has hit .298/.319/.675 in starting 12 games, the team has had a different dynamic without him manning the No. 2 spot in the order.
With Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson and Johan Camargo hitting second, the Braves have combined for 31 wRC+ out of the that spot in the order. That’s 28th in the majors and trails only the Royals (19) and A’s (6).
In Acuña’s last week before the injury, the Braves were hitting 11 percent above league average from the No. 2 spot, ranking 17th overall and seventh in the National League. But overall, the Braves offense has remained potent, scoring 4.4 runs per game (10th in MLB).
There’s no push to get Acuña back in the lineup, even if he’s anxiously waiting … even with those lessons in patience.
“They haven’t really told me much and those are decisions for them to make and I’m waiting for them to be like ‘Hey, this is the day that you’re going to go out,’” he said.
Added Snitker: “He had a really good workout and he feels great, but we’re just going to have to make sure. As tight as we’ve turned the nut, we’re going to have to turn it again before we turn him loose.”
Follow Cory McCartney on Twitter @coryjmccartney and Facebook. His books, ‘Tales from the Atlanta Braves Dugout: A Collection of the Greatest Braves Stories Ever Told,’ and ‘The Heisman Trophy: The Story of an American Icon and Its Winners.’ are now available.