It's no secret that Braves star Ronald Acuna Jr. hasn't quite been the same player since his return from the knee injury that ended his 2021 season prematurely.
And, after snapping an 18-game homerless drought in Thursday's loss to the Mets, the three-time All-Star admitted he's still not consistently comfortable at the plate yet.
"The knee, with my swings, it doesn’t always feel the same," Acuna told reporters through an interpreter. "Some days I feel like I have confidence in it, sometimes I don’t feel like I have confidence in it, and it’s not the same. It's all part of the process. We keep moving forward."
Acuna, still on 24 years old, took Mets starter and fellow native Venezuelan Carlos Carrasco deep to straightaway center at Citi Field for a two-run shot in the top of the fifth inning. The blast marked Acuna's first round-tripper since July 8, at home against the Washington Nationals.
Acuna was so elated to get off the schneid, he even jokingly took a brief curtain call before the crowd in New York.
Though Acuna is struggling relative to his own lofty standards, he remains an above-average hitter. Since returning in the Braves' 20th game in late April, the right-handed-hitting slugger owns a line of .256/.354/.396, with nine home runs and 22 stolen bases in 29 attempts. The Braves were 8-11 without Acuna, and have gone a scorching 46-24 since his return.
While it's a bit alarming to hear Acuna concede he's not yet back to full strength, it's not entirely surprising either. It often takes players a full season to be fully comfortable after major surgery, and even this "diminished" version of Acuna is still a valuable asset. We wouldn't bet against him returning to his 40-40 production by the start of next season, if not sooner.