Braves pitcher Tim Hudson had back surgery for a herniated disc on Monday, and doctors said the 36-year-old right-hander should be fully recovered for spring training.
His back bothered him to varying degrees for the past two seasons, but surgery was necessitated only after the pain increased during Hudson’s recent offseason workouts. He could be cleared to resume throwing in about six weeks.
Hudson was 16-10 with a 3.22 ERA in 33 starts in 2011, leading the Braves in wins, ERA and innings (215) and ranking second in strikeouts (158). He missed a start in late May with back stiffness.
“We’ve known for a couple of years, but it just kind of escalated to the point where he needed to do this,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said. “The hope all along was that this would be a post-career surgery, but the reality is it just got progressively worse.”
Hudson is owed $9 million in 2012 in the last season of a three-year, $28 million contract extension that also includes a $9 million option for 2013 with a $1 million buyout.
He needs to pitch only 156-1/3 innings in 2012 to get a $500,000 bonus for totaling 600 innings during the 2010-2012 seasons.
“He feels really good, like this is something that will help him and potentially extend his [career],” Wren said. “From what the doctors have indicated to us, and in talking to Tim last week, he was limited in his throwing last spring [by back stiffness] and feels like he’ll be more able to throw this year than he was last January and in the spring.”
The Alabama native has lived up to or even outperformed his contract, which he signed in November 2009 after coming back from ligament-transplant elbow surgery.
Over the past two seasons, Hudson went 33-19 with a 3.02 ERA and .232 opponents’ average in 443-2/3 innings. For comparison, Phillies star Cliff Lee was 29-17 with a 2.77 ERA and .234 OA in 445 innings during that two-year span, and Giants ace Tim Lincecum was 29-24 with a 3.08 ERA and .232 OA in 429-1/3 innings.
“It speaks volumes to the competitor and teammate he is,” Wren said. “He’s going to give everything he can. He was going to pitch, and there were times when other guys probably would have said I can’t go.”
Hudson was 2-4 with a 4.56 ERA in his last eight starts before back stiffness sidelined him one turn in May. He went 9-2 with a 2.09 ERA in his first 14 starts after returning.
Among National League starters, he had the fourth-best groundball ratio and allowed the fourth-lowest slugging percentage.