One day after suffering a season-ending torn right ACL, Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. said he will return to his team as good as ever.
“I’m obviously going to put maximum effort to come back stronger than ever,” Acuna told reporters Sunday through the team interpreter. “If I was giving 500 percent before, I’m about to start giving 1,000 percent.”
Acuna, just 23, is already a bona fide star — the 2018 National League Rookie of the Year, a two-time All-Star and a two-time Silver Slugger winner. He was crucial to the Braves’ quest to win their fourth straight National League East title.
“When I got the news, I was really sad,” Acuna said of the torn ACL. “I love to play and that’s what I want to do, to be able to play. I’m really sad and disappointed for the team. I know they need me and I want to be there for them, to help contribute. I have the utmost confidence in my teammates to go out and produce, and I know they’ll do great.”
Acuna was injured while chasing after a Jazz Chisholm Jr. smash that bounced off the wall in right field. Acuna hit the dirt after jumping to try to get the ball, and the speedy Chisholm took advantage, turning the play into an inside-the-park home run.
Acuna started to try to walk off the field with the help of trainers but was eventually carted off the field.
“I knew something was wrong,” Acuna said. “I guess I didn’t understand the severity of it, until the doctor told me about it later on. Nothing I can do about it now. I can’t control things I can’t control.”
A timetable hasn’t been set for his return.
Acuna will have surgery, which has yet to be scheduled. It will be after Tuesday, though, as Acuna still plans to be in Denver for All-Star Game festivities that begin Monday. He was scheduled to start for the NL and participate in the Home Run Derby.
He already is in elite company in his career. He is one of five players to reach 100 homers and 75 stolen bases at age 23 or younger, and he’s in elite company. Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Andruw Jones and Mike Trout are the others.
“This guy is arguably the best player in the game right now,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s going to be hard to replace him. Somebody’s going to get an opportunity, whether it’s somebody in this clubhouse, or away, who knows? That’s what you do in our business, you just keep going, keep playing.”
Acuna ends his season hitting .283 with 24 homers, 72 runs scored and 52 RBIs in 82 games.