The Braves signed top prospect Ronald Acuna, of Venezuela, in 2014.

Acuna progressing in rehab, itching to rejoin Braves

When someone asked Braves manager Brian Snitker for an update Tuesday on rookie sensation Ronald Acuna and when he might return from the disabled list, he smiled.

“If you asked him I’m sure he’d tell you he’s ready to play today,” Snitker said.

And he was almost right. 

Acuna, recovering from a sprained ligament and contusion in his left knee and lower-back contusion, all of which occurred in a frightening tumble May 27 at Boston, is progressing toward a return from the DL and did some running and hitting in the batting cage in the past few days.

“If it was up to me, I’d be ready to play tomorrow,” Acuna said through an interpreter Tuesday afternoon, before doing more rigorous running in the outfield before a game against the Mets at SunTrust Park. “But we’re just taking the right steps and going through the process. 

“Ultimately it’s their decision, and I’m going to follow it.”

When asked if he might begin a rehab assignment as soon as Thursday, Acuna replied, “I’d say probably between Thursday and the weekend, I’ll probably be doing some rehab games in the minor leagues.”

To which Snitker smiled. He wasn’t sure when Acuna would begin his rehab assignment, to be determined by the medical staff and general manager.

“I don’t know -- he’s not going to make that decision,” Snitker said, smiling in appreciation of Acuna’s enthusiasm and confidence.

Asked what else Acuna needed to do before he’d be ready for a rehab assignment, Snitker said, “The cutting, throwing, actually putting cleats on and getting out over your front leg (throwing), things like that. Rounding the bases, hitting the bag. He hasn’t done the rigorous baseball stuff yet, but he’s trending in that direction.”

He added, “From what I witnessed in Boston, it’s unbelievable that he’s doing as good as he is right now.”

The incident at Boston indeed looked far worse to everyone who witnessed it than the injuries turned out to be. Initial fears that he dislocated the knee or ankle or broke a bone were alleviated when Acuna stood up and walked off the field after being attended to by a Braves trainer.

But doctors -- and keyboard doctors -- were among those who opined on social media between then and a diagnosis the next day that Acuna probably tore ligaments, despite being able to walk.

An MRI showed no structural damage, no tears. Acuna began hitting balls off a tee barely a week later.

“I feel good, thank God,” he said Tuesday. “And obviously the injury, the way it happened, looked a lot worse on video. We were all expecting a lot worse and luckily that’s not the case. I feel good right now.”

He’s watched video of the incident multiple times, so Tuesday seemed a good time to ask Acuna what he thought caused his cleat to stick in the dirt after he’d crossed first base on an infield single. That’s what hyperextended the knee and launched him into the air in an ugly tumble.

“I think it was kind of trying to slow down my momentum as abruptly as I did,” he said. “And that’s just a habit that I have, and unfortunately it’s just part of the game. It’s the adrenaline that I have, that I play with. So I was just trying to slow down too quickly.”

Acuna was asked if his making a “safe” sign with his arms as he crossed the plate might’ve been a contributing factor.

“It’s hard to say and I really don’t know what the best way to say it is because I’ve always done that,” Acuna said. “So it’s never happened before and the only thing I can really attest to it happening was the cleat getting stuck on the ground, just the impact there.”

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