ronald-acuna-jr-braves.jpg
USATSI

The Atlanta Braves made a surprise move on Thursday, activating outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. from the injured list more than a week earlier than expected. Previously, the Braves had been rumored to be targeting May 6 as his return date. In a corresponding move, the Braves designated outfielder Alex Dickerson for assignment.

Acuña is leading off and playing right field for the Braves on Thursday night against the Chicago Cubs.

Acuña, 24 years old, has not played since last July, when he tore his ACL. He missed the entirety of Atlanta's championship run, and also missed out on an opportunity to win his first career Most Valuable Player Award. In 82 games, he had batted .283/.394/.596 (155 OPS+) with 24 home runs and 17 stolen bases. For his career, he's hit .281/.376/.549 (138 OPS+), making him one of the league's top players. 

The Braves, 8-11 on the season, are already 5 1/2 games behind the New York Mets in the National League East race. Earlier this week, they lost another outfielder to injury, with veteran Eddie Rosario slated to miss at least two months following an eye procedure to correct his blurry vision. Manager Brian Snitker had taken to starting Marcell Ozuna, Adam Duvall, and journeyman Travis Demeritte in the outfield.

Dickerson, 32, joined the Braves over the offseason after spending the past two-plus years with the San Francisco Giants. Though he'd been a productive platoon player out west, he hadn't shown much with Atlanta. In 13 games, he'd batted just .121/.194/.212 (16 OPS+) with six more strikeouts than walks in 36 plate appearances. 

After Thursday's game, the Braves will jet off to Arlington for a weekend series against the Texas Rangers.