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Braves' Ronald Acuña Jr. deals with emotions of a 2nd season-ending knee injury

ATLANTA — Ronald Acuña Jr. is emboldened at the start of his journey through a second major knee surgery and recovery by the knowledge he enjoyed such a successful comeback from his first procedure.

Acuña said Thursday that hasn't stopped the tears from flowing as he adjusts to the reality his season ended when he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on Sunday in Pittsburgh.

After the Braves announced Sunday night that an MRI showed a complete tear in the ligament, support started to come in for Acuña, the reigning NL MVP.

“I haven't gotten around to replying to a lot of those messages because those messages come from a place of support,” Acuña said through a translator. “I just sort of break down and start crying. ... I know they just want what's best for me.”

This is Acuña’s second season-ending knee injury. He tore his right ACL on July 20, 2021, and came back strong with his 2023 MVP season. Even though few players have had to recover from torn ACLs in both knees, he said his familiarity with the surgery and rehab gives him confidence.

“I think it has been easier to process this go around because I went through the process two years ago,” Acuña said.

Acuña said the surgery will be performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles on Tuesday. ElAttrache also was the surgeon for the 2021 procedure. Acuña expects to spend a least one month in Los Angeles as he begins his rehabilitation with hopes of returning for the start of the 2025 season.

Acuña was hurt after opening Sunday's 8-1 win over the Pirates with a double and then breaking from second base on a stolen base attempt. His left knee gave way when he stopped in an attempt to return to second base.

Acuña is a native of Venezuela and another native of his home country, former catcher Wilson Ramos, is one of the few players to continue playing following ACL repairs to both knees. Ramos injured his left knee in 2012 and his right knee in 2016, each time with Washington and then hurt his left knee again in 2021 with Cleveland.

Acuña said he has not reached out to Ramos or any player for advice.

“Fortunately for me it feels the same because I've already been through it,” he said.

Acuña said that despite “overwhelming” good wishes from fans, teammates and coaches, “all that support finds me at home crying by myself because I feel like I'm the one abandoning the team,” he said. “It feels like I'm the one letting everyone down.”

Manager Brian Snitker said he worries more about Acuña than the team.

“He loves to play and it's tough because he does know what he's in for,” Snitker said. “It's good and bad.”

Snitker expects a successful recovery for Acuña, 26.

“He's done it before and he'll do it again,” Snitker said. “He's young and strong.”

The Braves have lost two key players to season-ending injuries. All-Star right-hander Spencer Strider’s season ended on April 13 when he had internal brace surgery to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow.

“I'm going to take everything in stride,” Acuña said. “It's another opportunity. Who knows? Maybe I can come back and win another MVP.”

Acuña said “the best of all” reminders is that the team won the 2021 World Series following his first injury. The offense has struggled during a sluggish showing in May.

“We're here for a reason; every player on that roster is here for a reason,” Acuña said. “They're certainly capable. They don't need me to win a World Series.”