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Hudson thinks he has a lot left but might miss April

The Sports Xchange

The Braves have gone from saying right-hander Tim Hudson was expected to be ready to pitch in spring training games, to saying they weren't going to rush him -- given the depth of the rotation -- to saying he probably will not pitch in April.

It turns out that the Nov. 28 procedure to repair a degenerative disk in his spine involved going through his abdomen to fuse vertebrae. No wonder Hudson hadn't planned on having the surgery done until his career was finished.

Given the pain, that might have been at the end of this season. Now, he feels as though he could pitch for a few more years. The Braves hold a $9 million option for 2013.

But first he has to be cleared to pitch off a mound, which is not expected to happen until the middle of March. That's why Hudson is targeting May 1 to join the rotation.

As of now, though, the Braves are not saying he will begin the season on the disabled list.

Hudson would have been the Opening Day starter, but now that honor will go to either right-hander Jair Jurrjens or right-hander Tommy Hanson.

Both have something to prove after missing so much time last season because of injuries. Jurrjens, in particular, because he has missed starts the last two Septembers.

Right off the bat, Jurrjens is ahead of Hanson, who has not participated in camp all week after sustaining a Grade 1 concussion in a one-car accident. Hanson's car blew a tire as he was driving to the first workout of spring training.

As the car veered off the road, he hit his head, and he doesn't remember exactly how. His chest and shoulder are sore from the seat belt restraint, and he has experienced headaches and, for a time, a wobbly sensation when he walked.

Until he is evaluated again by the medical staff, Hanson will not take the mound to show off his new, more compact delivery. Designed primarily to take the stress off his shoulder and lower back, the quicker, smoother motion should also help him hold runners on base; his timing to the plate has gone from 1.8-to-1.9 seconds to 1.3-to-1.4 seconds.

Hudson's early absence opens the door not only for left-hander Mike Minor, but also for right-handers Randall Delgado and Julio Teheran, and possibly even right-handed reliever Kris Medlen.

Minor's advantage as the lone left-hander is obvious, and he showed late last season that when he knew he had a regular spot in the rotation, he could produce consistently.

Minor also has the inside edge because general manager Frank Wren wants Delgado and Teheran, who both made spot starts last season, in a regular rotation, not in the bullpen.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez has said repeatedly that Medlen will be stretched out as a starter in spring training, but his versatility has him ticketed for the bullpen.

Medlen got a taste of having more control over the whole game in his spot starts and liked it, so he wants to be a starter. But obviously he'll pitch wherever the Braves put him.

Copyright (C) 2012 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.


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