LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – If you’re a 37-year-old pitcher with 197 career wins and three weeks to go before games that matter, you keep things in perspective and perhaps maintain a sense of humor as Tim Hudson did after a self-described “train wreck” of an outing Sunday.
The Braves veteran threw 28 pitches in the first inning, 97 pitches in five innings, and allowed nine hits, six runs and one walk in a 10-2 Grapefruit League loss to the Marlins at Champion Stadium. He hit two batters and gave up a home run.
“I’ll have three more starts left, and by the end of spring I should be up to 160, 170 pitches,” Hudson cracked, before offering a serious take on his spring performance, including a 6.43 ERA in four starts, with three walks and four strikeouts in 14 innings.
He’s allowed 17 hits and 10 runs in 12 innings over his past three starts.
“You know, it’s obvious the last couple of starts have been a train wreck from a production standpoint,” Hudson said. “But I’m out there pitching in stressful situations and trying to make pitches in difficult spots. I haven’t exactly made them like I want to, but it’s nice to have a situation where you can actually work on things and challenge yourself out there without hurting the team in a real game.”
Hudson hit the game’s first batter, Christian Yelich. One groundball single and two outs later, he surrendered a three-run homer to outfield prospect Marcell Ozuna, who hit a high fly that might have been aided by wind blowing out to the right-field corner. Ozuna had 22 or more home runs in each of the past three seasons in the low minors.
In the second inning, there was a groundball single and a walk before Chone Figgins blooped a two-run, two-out single just over the head of shortstop prospect Elmer Reyes, who has helped fill in while Andrelton Simmons and Ramiro Pena are playing in the World Baseball Classic.
Hudson was also charged with a run in the fifth after hitting Ozuna with a pitch and giving up a hard double by Chris Coghlan.
The body feels strong but his delivery needs some adjustments, Hudson said, citing a specific problem with his backside collapsing on most pitches. He plans to work on that in his bullpen sessions and remaining starts this spring, and Hudson is confident there’s enough time – he has three more scheduled starts — to get things ironed out before opening day.
“I actually felt really good, believe it or not,” he said. “I made some pretty good pitches they fouled off. It was weird, I’d make some really good two-strike type pitches early in the count, they’d take them. Then I’d be ahead of a guy and not make a very good two-strike pitch and they’d hit it.
“My curveball, I hit a guy with it the first pitch of the game. That’s a pitch that hasn’t been there at all this spring, but I’ve got to throw it, try to work on it. Physically this is probably the best I’ve felt, from a stamina standpoint. The results haven’t been great. It’s been kind of hit-or-miss with some pitches — make a couple of good ones, make a couple of bad ones. Make some good ones just off the plate and out of the zone, fall behind in the count… But hopefully during the season it’s a little different, obviously.”
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez didn’t seem the least bit concerned by Hudson’s rough outing.
“He had some groundballs, some choppers that were over the infielders’ heads,” Gonzalez said. “But I thought five innings, 90-plus pitches – he was fine. He did throw some good sinkers, and threw some balls that stayed up over the strike zone.”