Braves star Ronald Acuña is set to begin a rehab assignment

Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna - who has been sidelined with a knee injury since July - watches the team take part in batting practice before Game 2 of the NLCS Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Truist Park in Atlanta. (Ashley Landis/AP)

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Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna - who has been sidelined with a knee injury since July - watches the team take part in batting practice before Game 2 of the NLCS Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Truist Park in Atlanta. (Ashley Landis/AP)

SAN DIEGO – Ronald Acuña is set to take a large step toward returning to the Braves.

Acuña on Tuesday will begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Gwinnett, which will be playing a series in Jacksonville during the week. The Braves are still using May 6 as a loose target date for Acuña to join the big club.

“It’s good,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said on Sunday. “I’m sure he’s excited to play a real game under lights and all that. We’re going to be winding down to where we can get him back. That’s going to be some kind of a boost for this club when he gets back to the top of that order.”

Acuña, who is rehabbing after tearing his ACL last summer, has been in Florida playing in simulated games. In these contests, which provide a controlled environment, he has been building up in the outfield while getting the necessary amount of at-bats.

The Braves sending Acuña on a rehab assignment means the star outfielder is ready to play five to six innings in the outfield right now. He will continue ramping up as he looks to soon join the Braves.

“He’s healthy, doing everything,” Snitker said. “Feels good. Everything is really, really good so far.”

Acuña will likely lead off for the Braves and play right field (when he’s in the outfield on a given day). The thinking is that Acuña will not immediately be a full-time outfielder when he returns to the majors because the Braves want to see how his body responds, and they’ll evaluate that daily.

Acuña’s return would seemingly push Eddie Rosario to left field on days Acuña plays in the outfield, which would mean Marcell Ozuna would probably be the designated hitter that day.

And because Acuña will bat first in the order, Ozzie Albies will move elsewhere. Snitker said that’s no issue for Albies, who homered in the first three games of the series against the Padres.

“I think Ronald really likes leading off,” Snitker said. “Ozzie is a versatile player within a batting order because he can hit in a lot of spots.”

As of now, Acuña continues to progress, so much so that the Braves are about to send him on a rehab assignment as he continues on a path that will lead to his return to the top of the order. If Acuña returns on May 6, his first game in around 10 months would be at Truist Park against the Brewers.

Last season, Acuña hit .283 with a .990 on-base plus slugging percentage and 24 home runs before tearing his ACL in July.