Acuña Jr. expects to be ready for opening day after NL MVP’s knee exam turns up no major issues

NORTH PORT, Fla. (AP) — National League MVP Ronald Acuña Jr. is expected to be ready for opening day with the Atlanta Braves after a more thorough examination of his sore right knee found no serious issues.

Acuña left the Braves’ spring training site in Florida to be examined by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles on Monday night.

The team announced Tuesday that ElAttrache found only irritation in the meniscus of his right knee. Acuña will be able to gradually increase his baseball activities and is expected to be cleared to play by the time the Braves open the regular season at Philadelphia on March 28.

Acuña is coming off a season in which he became the first player in baseball history to hit 40 homers and steal 70 bases. He was a unanimous choice for NL MVP after hitting .337 with 41 homers, 106 RBIs and 73 stolen bases, leading Atlanta to its sixth straight NL East title.

Acuña tweaked his knee on Thursday while he was in a rundown between second and third base during an exhibition game against the Minnesota Twins. There were no immediate issues; he remained in the game for two more innings before exiting with many of the regular starters.

Acuña took batting practice the following day, but the team decided to take no chances when pain persisted in the same knee that sustained a season-ending injury in 2021.

As a precautionary measure, the Braves sent Acuña to be examined by the famed California surgeon who surgically repaired the knee after he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in 2021.

ElAttrache confirmed there was no structural damage, providing the Braves with a big sigh of relief as they head into another season of high expectations.