Braves’ J. Upton hits another colossal HR; Hudson tosses knuckleball

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla — If spring training is any indication, new left fielder Justin Upton is going to give Braves fans plenty of thrills and drive a lot of baseballs to the far corners of Turner Field.

He belted a homer over the 60-foot tall scoreboard in left-center field Thursday night in a 4-3 win against Washington at Champion Stadium, snapping Dan Haren streak of 10 consecutive batters retired.

Upton has three homers in three games and is batting .286 with five homers and a team-high 17 RBIs in 56 at-bats.

Earlier this spring he hit what many observers believed to have been the longest homer to left field since the ballpark opened, clearing the grass berm and a fence behind it and nearly reaching the players’ parking lot. That home run was estimated to have gone at least 450 feet, and Thursday’s might have been closer to 470.

“They all feel pretty much the same,” Upton said of his longest longballs.

Hudson knuckler: Braves pitcher Tim Hudson threw a knuckleball to Adam LaRoche in the second inning, after his friend and former Atlanta teammate dared him to.

“He’s thrown me a knuckle ball (before), that was the second time,” LaRoche said. “Another time he went to switch balls and threw one right at my head and it went all the way to the backstop. He just likes having fun apparently. That was funny. I actually gave him the knuckleball signal walking up. I didn’t think he would. I should’ve known better.”

Hudson had his best night of the spring, allowing six hits and no walks with five strikeouts in six scoreless innings. He threw 45 strikes in 65 pitches, including the knuckleball that LaRoche didn’t swing at.

“It’s a new pitch I’ve been working on,” Hudson deadpanned. “I was going to wait till the All-Star break to break it out, but it’s been so good lately that I’m going to start implementing it….

“He looked at me and (signaled with hand) like, ‘Knuckleball? Throw me a knuckleball? Ha ha ha.’ I did it. It was almost a strike. It was close. Over the plate, down.”

As for his performance, Hudson said, “Today was the biggest step I’ve taken this spring. My curveball felt better. I threw a handful of them and they were located pretty well, pretty good life on ‘em. My cutter was how it’s been most of the spring. Threw some good splits. The main thing was my fastball location was a lot better. Felt like it had a little better zip to it, little better life on it.

“It was nice to see some 87 (mph pitches) that weren’t fastballs. That’s always a good thing.”