(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien this Florida Marlins series.)
Miami - So Tim Hudson is back, he is looking a lot like his old self, and he’s going to give the Braves more starters than you can shake a stick at. I see multiple theories are being kicked around this morning as to what the Braves should do with all these arms.
At the moment, the plan is to give Kenshin Kawakami a rest. Hey, maybe you rest him until the next stud pitcher is going for the other team and you run him back out there on last-minute notice. Not that he’d appreciate that too much, but what do you do? Bobby Cox said last week he planned to continue using Kawakami as a starter. Same with Hudson.
Last night, when asked about Hudson’s addition to the rotation, Cox said: “It gives us six good ones. It gives us a lot of options.”
I know there’s reason to think Tommy Hanson could use a break, or some kind of cutback, given how many innings he’s compiling, and coming up from the minor leagues he’s not used to such a load. But then again, he might be your most dominant pitcher right now. If I’m the Braves, no way do I want him out of the rotation.
And I can’t see them moving Derek Lowe to the bullpen either, and I have $60 million reasons why not. Well, 60 million and one. He had one awful, very bad inning against the Mets, but then you see what he does against the Phillies on Saturday night, holding them to a run in a 9-1 win and you remember why you don’t want him as a reliever.
Maybe giving each of these guys an extra day here or there will keep them a little fresher than they’d normally be for a postseason run. You have a little flexibility if something comes up, like an abdominal muscle thing Javier Vazquez had right around the All-Star break. And then, wow, let’s think about “what if” in the postseason.
Imagine what you would do in a short series in the first round of the playoffs with a three-man rotation. Who you like there? At first blush, I’d want to go Vazquez, Jair Jurrjens and Hanson. Hm, but Lowe has a pretty nice track record in the postseason himself. And look at what a big game pitcher Kawakami has turned out to be. Maybe you can simply play matchups by then, who does well against what lineup.
See it’s not all bad to have so many choices. And as you guys allude, the choices will continue to be hard on into the offseason.
Halfway home against Marlins
But let’s get back to now. Between Kawakami’s start Monday and Hudson’s efforts last night, er, um this morning, the Braves have done exactly what they set out to do this series. They’ve created a two-game cushion on the Marlins. They win one of the next two games here and they get to keep that two game lead. Win the next two, take a four-game lead. (I did the math on that like three times, so if I’m wrong, I blame a foggy brain.) But by that math, a sweep would be the way to go. With Javier Vazquez going tonight and Tommy Hanson tomorrow, why not aim high?
This is the third time in his last seven starts for Vazquez to take on the Marlins. His last start against them he kept them in check until the seventh inning when both Hanley Ramirez and Jeremy Hermida just cleared the fence with home runs. Tonight he faces Rick VanderHurk, who might have struggled against other teams, but he’s pitched well against the Braves. He had a nine-strikeout game on July 30, giving up only two runs in six innings.
The Braves would be doing themselves a favor to get some kind of cushion tonight. Rafael Soriano has pitched three days in a row. The last time he pitched four days in a row – Aug. 5-Aug. 8 – he needed a break because of some shoulder soreness.
It also wouldn’t hurt if Soriano could take a break from Dan Uggla, who’s driven in ninth innings runs off him in each of the first two games of this series, with a double Monday night and a homer last night. Uggla is hitting 5-for-9 (.556) off Soriano, with a double, three home runs and four RBIs.
Just wanted to mention a little more on Hudson and his good work last night. For those of you who might have had better things to do, like sleep, Hudson went 5 1/3 innings, allowed two runs on six hits, walked three and struck out five and won. And he gave himself reason to be encouraged as we get going into September.
“It’s nice to be able to go out there and know that you have the stuff to do it at this level again,” Hudson said. “Do I feel like I’m back 100 percent, midseason form, four years ago? Probably not right at this moment, but I definitely feel like I can go out there and give us a really good chance to win, and it’s gradually going to get better and better each time out. I suspect by spring training next year I should be back to my old self.”
Ah, and will that be with the Braves? Keep up the discussion. It’s interesting stuff.
Hudson has the reputation for being a great guy in the clubhouse and somebody his teammates really want to fight for, and that was evident in all the comments last night, especially from Cox.
“Huddy is one of the most liked guys ever on a team,” Cox said. “He’s extremely popular, he’s extremely a team guy. Never looks out for himself, he’s always looking out for the team. They love him. That makes it even better.”
OK, I’d better pack it up and get to the ballpark. It sure would be nice not to have a three-hour wait before we get this one going, but that goes without saying. Just in the last two weeks, the Braves have had almost 10 hours in rain delays. I know you know this, given all the Spotlights Brian McCann and Bobby Cox you guys have been watching.
Chance of rain is a manageable 40 percent or so as we get into the evening. Let’s keep those clouds moving on to somewhere else, shall we? More from the ‘yard.