Already eyeing starting pitchers, Braves may now need to act

NEW YORK -- The first thoughts are with Tim Hudson.

He's had a great career, and you hope this isn't it for him. His teammates love him, and understandably so. It was tough to even watch their reactions as Hudson lay on the ground in the eighth inning Wednesday night, with what was eventually diagnosed as a fractured right ankle that will require surgery.

Whatever it means for Hudson's career -- he just turned 38 -- the Braves will need to find a way to replace him in the rotation for the rest of this year.

They were already looking at trading for a starting pitcher, but with little sense of urgency. The main motivation, before Wednesday, was that trading for a starter could enable them to move Kris Medlen and/or Brandon Beachy to the bullpen.

And while the Braves had been looking, Braves people were cautioning Wednesday afternoon that a trade for a starter was unlikely.

Maybe that changes now.

Hudson has served as a veteran anchor for what is a mostly young Braves rotation. While the Braves have enough starting pitching depth (especially with Beachy and Paul Maholm expected back from the disabled list), they may want a more veteran presence.

One name that could make sense: Jake Peavy.

The Braves have had interest in Peavy before, and nearly traded for him five years ago when he was with the Padres. Those talks didn't end well, and the Padres later traded Peavy to the White Sox. But now the White Sox want to move him, and he's one of the few starting pitchers on the market.

Other starters known to be available include Yovani Gallardo of the Brewers, Bud Norris of the Astros and Ervin Santana of the Royals.

The Braves rotation, at this point, includes Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, Medlen and Alex Wood, who is scheduled to make his second big-league start Thursday against the Mets. Beachy made a minor-league rehab start Wednesday, and Maholm isn't that far from returning.

Meanwhile, the Braves have continued to search for bullpen help, even though their relief corps has compiled the best combined ERA in the major leagues. The main focus has been on adding a left-hander, not surprising since the Braves lost both Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty to season-ending injuries, but the Braves had looked at some right-handers as well.

The Braves have looked at Mike Gonzalez of the Brewers, James Russell of the Cubs and Joe Thatcher of the Padres. Other left-handers who make sense are Wesley Wright of the Astros and Oliver Perez of the Mariners, although Seattle has continued to insist that it doesn't plan to sell. Former Brave Mike Dunn, now with the Marlins, also could have made sense, but the Marlins told the Braves they don't plan to trade him.

The Braves' need for pitching is a little interesting, considering that their big recent problem has been inconsistent offense. They do fine when they hit plenty of home runs, as they did in Wednesday's 8-2 win over the Mets, but on too many other nights the Braves have trouble scoring. They scored just four runs combined in the three games leading up to Wednesday.

The scoring problems have led to an underwhelming six weeks of baseball for the Braves, who are just 20-22 since June 5. They've held onto their National League East lead -- and actually increased it, to eight games -- because the Nationals and Phillies have been even worse.

While the offense has been an issue, the Braves don't believe they can solve that problem on the trade market. They're committed to the starting players they have, and just hope the performance improves.

One big key, they realize, is to get more out of April star Justin Upton, who has hit only four home runs since May 1 (even his struggling and now hurt brother B.J. has hit more).

If the Braves make a trade, it's likely to be for a pitcher. Before Wednesday, Braves people were saying it was most likely to be for a reliever.

We'll see now if that changes.

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