Braves superstar Ronald Acuña Jr. has expressed desire multiple times to play for his home country, Venezuela, in the 2023 World Baseball Classic. But it appears that won’t be happening this year as the Braves want to keep the 25-year-old outfielder out of the preseason event for precautionary reasons.
Acuña tore his ACL in July 2021 and had surgery shortly thereafter. He returned to MLB action on April 28, 2022 and played through the rest of the season, including the playoffs.
Over the weekend, Acuña said he would “probably not” be suiting up in the March event for his country.
“I have always said that I want to represent my country, but that’s not a decision I can make,” Acuña told reporters, including The Athletic, through an interpreter at a team event. “The team, the medics and the staff will take care of that.”
Earlier this month, Acuña posted (and quickly deleted) an Instagram Story questioning why he could not play for Venezuelan after playing most of the 2022 MLB season.
Under the rules for the most recent WBC in 2017, teams were able to block players from participating under certain injury-related parameters. They were:
- Spent 60 total days on the injured list during the most recent MLB season, including at least 15 of the final 60 days of the season.
- Were physically unable to play in two of his team’s last three games in the most recent season (regular season or postseason games).
- Had surgery since last Opening Day or is scheduled to have surgery in the future.
- Were on the injured list on the last day of August of the most recent MLB season.
Acuña — who also told reporters he is feeling “100 precent” — played in 119 games last season and went 5 for 15 in the Braves’ NLDS loss to the Phillies, so he doesn’t fit any of the 2017 qualifications. However, the injury-related rules for the 2023 WBC are unclear, and the Braves apparently have enough concern to keep him out.
Acuña has also served as a designated hitter in the Venezuelan Winter League, though that’s a different situation than being full-go in the WBC.
Acuña is a three-time All-Star who hit .266/.351/.413 (114 OPS+) with 24 doubles, 15 homers, 50 RBI, 71 runs, 29 stolen bases and 2.8 WAR last season after the injury.