(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien this Florida Marlins series.)
Miami - So it’s finally here. Huddy Day. The ol’ baldheaded right-hander from Alabama is going to get back on the hill. (Sorry, the southern thing just slips in, when you start thinking about Tim Hudson and his voice pops into your head.)
But it’s a big day for Hudson and the Braves. He makes his return from Tommy John surgery tonight against the Marlins. (I can say Tommy John on the blog and no editor will make me say elbow reconstruction surgery, wahoo!)
No time to dawdle for Hudson either. The Braves are three games back in the wild card now and this is serious. And that sounds good for Hudson, who sounds so ready to jump right in. I asked him yesterday if this felt similar to an opening day start or his first start in the postseason or something, and here’s his response:
“I guess you could say it has the first-game-of-a-season type feel, but to be honest with you I thought it’d be a little more exciting, or a little more nervousness going on,” Hudson said. “I almost feel like I’ve already pitched about 10 or 15 times. It almost has that picking-up-from-where-I-left-off type of feel. Tomorrow may be a totally different feel when I’m warming up in the bullpen. Right now, it feels like I’m ready. I’m ready to get out there and throw a meaningful pitch.”
I’m guessing that picking-up feeling comes from doing all these minor league rehab outings in advance of tonight’s start. Hudson made six starts – four with Gwinnett, two in Myrtle Beach. He was 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA. If there was an eyebrow-raising number, it’s the 29 hits he allowed in 23 1/3 innings, good for a .309 opponents batting average.
I think a lot of that had to do with him working on his location, which gradually got better. Hudson said the other day that at times even when he’d work the count in his favor, he’d go to his fastball and couldn’t put it where he wanted it and get hit. But he said his last outing, and in subsequent bullpens, the command of his fastball had improved.
His goal is to make it six shutout innings. If he’s on a specific pitch count, he didn’t know about it yesterday. But he’s gone 90 pitches in rehab. And I wouldn’t expect him to go more than 10 pitches above that.
The pragmatist in me says we won’t be seeing six shutout innings tonight – I know, go out on a limb – even though Hudson somehow managed to throw six shutout innings the last time he pitched here, four of them after feeling what he thought was a muscle strain in his elbow, which turned out to be his ligament tearing. I think Hudson is keeping his expectations in check too.
“Do I think I’m going to be in midseason form and everything?” Hudson said. “I hope. But realistically, probably not. But I definitely feel a lot like I normally would coming out of spring training.”
He hasn’t pitched in nine days, after the last start of his rehab was scratched so he could go ahead and rejoin the rotation. He’s antsy as heck. How that plays out will be interesting to see. For his teammates included.
“I know he’s really geeked up to pitch,” Chipper Jones said last night. “Let’s hope he’s not too geeked up because he’s not a 97, 98 mph guy. He’s a finesse guy that has overpowering stuff. And he needs to have his location and his movement. And if he has that, he’ll be fine.”
Interesting way to put it, “a finesse guy that has overpowering stuff,” but I get what he means.
Going by the book, Hudson has some positive reinforcement to build on against the Marlins. Hudson is 5-1 with a 2.59 ERA in his career at Land Shark Stadium. He’s 7-2 with a 2.63 ERA against the Marlins for his career. His trouble spots in the order are everyone’s trouble spots: Hanley Ramirez (.310, 9-for-29), Dan Uggla (.310, 9-for-29), and Jorge Cantu (.375, 3-for-8.)
So we’ll see.
Braves PR man Adam Liberman passed along this tidbit last night, and I thought I’d share it here. Peter Moylan has not given up a home run this year. He leads the majors with 73 appearances. (He’s something like 10 shy now of Chris Reitsma’s Braves record for appearances.) And he hasn’t given up a homer.
The last home run Moylan allowed? You might recall it. It was the walk-off shot by Ryan Zimmerman on Opening Day last year in Washington for a 3-2 win by the Nats. Moylan pitched six more games last year before blowing his elbow ligament. That gives him 79 straight games without allowing a homer, which is an Atlanta Braves record.
Which brings me to a question: how do I handle that? If I ask Moylan about it, I’ll totally jinx it right? Shoot, that might be happening just by writing it on the blog. To even bring it up to Moylan might send chills down his spine.
Or maybe he’s not that superstitious and could give some insight into such a streak, and any adjustments he might be making to keep the ball down, and inside the park. I have a feeling I know which way you guys will vote. But hey, reporters’ dilemma.
Fan appreciation day Gwinnett
So while we’re awaiting the arrival of the September call-ups from Gwinnett this afternoon, by way of Durham (hey, just had to mention the home of a certain Mecca of higher education) – Brooks Conrad, Clint Sammons and Luis Valdez - I should mention a promo the Gwinnett Braves have going on.
For those in the Atlanta area looking for something to do Labor Day weekend, it might be fun to take in the Gwinnett Braves’ last regular season games. (They’ll probably make the playoffs, so stay tuned there.)
They’ve got $1 berm tickets and $1 hotdogs at the berm concession stand available for games on Saturday, Sunday and Monday (for the moment, anyway.) Go to www.gwinnettbraves.com, the Gwinnett Box office or Ticketmaster.
OK, plug is over. More from the ballpark this afternoon.