Braves will consider trade options after Hudson injury

NEW YORK – The loss of veteran Tim Hudson to a season-ending ankle injury Wednesday opened a gaping hole in the Braves' starting rotation, and they'll consider all options to fill it, both in-house and a limited trade market.

“A lot of thoughts have gone through my mind since last night,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said Thursday morning, 12 hours after Hudson broke his ankle. “It’s created a lot more (trade) discussions, there’s no question.”

The Braves already sought to add a left-handed reliever before the non-waiver trade deadline Wednesday. Now they’ll consider trading for a veteran starting pitcher, if they can improve a young rotation that includes only one member with postseason experience – Kris Medlen’s lone start in last year’s Wild Card game.

Right-handers Jake Peavy (White Sox) and Bud Norris (Astros) are being shopped, and the Royals are reportedly listening to offers for Ervin Santana. But that’s about the extent of the starters known to be available, and with plenty of teams looking for rotation help, the price for each could be higher than their value.

The Braves aren’t involved in the bidding war for Cuban free-agent starter Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez.

Wren’s top assistants and major league scouts will convene this weekend at Turner Field, as they always do in the week before the trade deadline. But the Hudson injury added another level to the planned discussions. Wren said they’ll have to determine if any available starting pitchers – there could be and probably are more than the names being floated about so far – could help the Braves significantly, without costing them too much young talent.

“I’m not sure there’s a player available who’ll make us dramatically improved,” said Wren. While it’s important not to mortgage the future in terms of giving up young players for a quick fix, he also said, “Our goal is to win a World Series. That’s going to be first and foremost in our thought process.”

The Braves expect to bring Brandon Beachy off the disabled list to take Tim Hudson’s spot Monday, and Beachy figures to settle into a rotation spot as long as he stays healthy. The right-hander is 13 months removed from Tommy John elbow surgery, and with Triple-A Gwinnett on Wednesday, he had what the Braves said was perhaps the best of his nine rehab starts.

“He’s ready to go,” Wren said of Beachy, who pitched six innings and allowed two hits, two runs (one earned) and four walks with three strikeouts, with 51 strikes in 86 pitches. “There’s going to be some hills and valleys, like there always are with guys coming back from surgery. But’s throwing a lot better than when he was ramping things up last time (before inflammation stalled his rehab for two weeks in June).

The Braves can’t be certain what they’ll get from Beachy for the rest of the season. And rookie left-hander Alex Wood didn’t make it out of the fifth inning Thursday (4-1/3 innings, eight hits, four runs) against the Mets while filling in for veteran Paul Maholm, who’ll miss three starts after spraining his left wrist.

Their starting pitchers did strong work through 100 games to help the Braves remain comfortably in first place in the NL East. But while their 3.67 ERA was still fifth-best in the league before Thursday, there has been some recent slippage, and now injuries.

Maholm (9-9, 4.41 ERA) is 3-5 with a 5.53 ERA in his past 10 starts, and 0-3 with a 10.13 ERA in three July starts. Kris Medlen is 0-3 with an 8.59 ERA in his past three starts, and appeared to be in danger of losing his rotation spot before the Hudson injury.

Mike Minor (9-5, 2.98 ERA) and rookie Julio Teheran (7-5, 3.25 ERA) have been the Braves’ steadiest starters over the course of the season, but the grizzled and ultra-competitive Hudson (8-7, 3.97 ERA) was the unquestioned leader of the entire pitching staff, in the clubhouse and on the field.

“There’s no way to replace Timmy, and what he means to us,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “But we have an option (to fill in). Beachy pitched well last night at Gwinnett. He’ll be a perfect fit to fit in there on that Monday slot. We’ll have a young rotation, but hell, they’ve got to grow up sooner or later.

“You’ve got six starters, and you feel good about them. Two weeks from now, you don’t know. If you’re asking me do I feel comfortable with what we have now, absolutely.”

It’s uncertain if Wren feels quite as comfortable with the suddenly injury-depleted and veteran-deprived group, though he lauds the work the starters have done to keep the Braves in first place.

Hudson had been at the top of his game recently, and the Braves felt good with him poised to lead their staff in the throes of a playoff race. He won his past four starts and had a 2.73 ERA and .224 opponents’ average in his past 10 starts.

“Huddy’s the heard and soul of our pitching staff,” Wren said. “As you get into the second half, you want your veteran leaders to step up and lead the team. And that’s what Huddy was doing. He was pitching as well as anybody. Not just last night. That was vintage Tim Hudson, right at the time we needed that from him

“It’s disappointing for us and disappointing for him. When we needed him to step up, he stepped up.”