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Braves’ Ronald Acuña Jr. still rehabbing knee, won’t play spring game

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Atlanta Braves

Oct 17, 2021; Cumberland, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. (out ACL) during batting practice before their game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game two of the 2021 NLCS at Truist Park. . Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. won’t see game action in spring training, even as a designated hitter, as it becomes increasingly likely he will miss at least the first month of the regular season.

“No. You won’t see him in a spring game,” manager Brian Snitker said after Atlanta’s 4-0 win over Minnesota.

Acuna, recovering from a torn ACL in his right knee suffered midway through last season, expressed hope at the start of spring training that he would be ready for the defending World Series champion Braves’ opener on April 7. There had been speculation the universal DH would provide a path for Acuna’s return to the lineup earlier than if he had to play in the outfield.

Instead, the Braves continue to take a cautious approach to the rehabilitation process for Acuna, the team’s unquestioned biggest star after Freddie Freeman’s free-agent signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Snitker said Acuna has had no setback but added, “He’s just still going through rehab, pretty much.”

The Braves will have to prepare an outfield plan without Acuna for the start of the season.

Atlanta signed outfielders Eddie Rosario and Alex Dickerson at the start of spring. They also have Marcell Ozuna back with the team following his arrest last year on charges of aggravated assault after police officers said they witnessed him attacking his wife. Ozuna can start in left field or as the DH.

The new depth will be important if Acuna is forced to miss an extended stretch.

Though he was firm in his plan for Acuna, Snitker said the outfielder continues to make progress in his recovery. The rehabilitation schedule includes hitting but no other baseball activity.

“He’s doing great,” Snitker said. "... He has done exactly everything, I think, that they needed him to do.”

Acuna proclaimed “I’m ready” when the Braves opened camp on March 16. He is expected to eventually play right field, with Adam Duvall and Guillermo Heredia in center field.

NOTES: LHP Max Fried was so efficient in allowing no hits or runs in three scoreless innings on Tuesday that he had to throw an additional 20 pitches in the bullpen following his start to reach his planned 45 for the day. “He was awesome, about as good as you can get, really,” Snitker said. ... The Braves appear bound for salary arbitration with five players: Fried, Duvall, 3B Austin Riley, SS Dansby Swanson and RHP Luke Jackson. The team agreed to one-year deals with LHP A.J. Minter at $2.2 million, LHP Sean Newcomb at $900,000 and LHP Tyler Matzek at $1.4 million.