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Braves lose standout rookie to knee injury after weight room mishap

Mark Townsend
Yahoo Sports Contributor

The Atlanta Braves have been holding strong atop the National League East despite injuries to key hitters Nick Markakis and Dansby Swanson.

Now their injured list is adding a standout rookie after slugging outfielder Austin Riley suffered a right knee injury Tuesday as the result of a weight room mishap.

Ligament damage confirmed

According to Braves manager Brian Snitker, Riley was warming up in the visitor’s weight room at Target Field before Tuesday’s game against the Minnesota Twins when he felt something unusual in his knee.

Riley did not appear in Tuesday’s 12-7 win against Minnesota, but was considered available because there seemed to be no lingering effects. That changed Wednesday when the knee stiffened up overnight.

The Braves officially placed Riley on the 10-day injured list following Wednesday’s 11-7 win in Minnesota. On Thursday, the team announced Riley suffered a partial tear of the LCL.

It’s not the worst news, but it’s not exactly good news either. Surgery would obviously end his season and cut into his offseason.

Riley would be far from the first player to suffer an injury in the weight room. A 2018 study found that 4.6 percent of injuries suffered by major or minor league players occur in the weight room or during conditioning.

It was not made clear exactly how Riley’s occurred, other than he was warming up at the time. Perhaps that’s an indication it was more fluky in nature than past weight room injuries.

Record-breaking start to career

The Braves will be without standout Austin Riley as he recovers from a knee injury suffered during a weight room mishap. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Though he’s seen his playing time decrease recently due to a prolonged slump, Riley has shown he can be an impact player in the big leagues.

The 22-year-old launched a home run in just his second career at-bat against St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha back on May 15. That was the beginning of a historic home run tear.

Riley became the first Braves player in 111 years and the ninth MLB rookie to hit five homers within the first nine games of his career. He was only the second player 22 or younger to do so.

He also became the fastest Braves player to reach 10 home runs, needing just 26 games. Yes, he was even faster than Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews and Chipper Jones.

The Braves hold a six-game lead in the NL East following Wednesday’s action. They also possess a deep roster that’s proven capable of winning without Riley playing well. Still, they had to be hoping that Riley would get back on track and be a key hitter down the stretch.

Now they may not have him at all.

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