Hudson has back surgery; should be ready in spring

Braves pitcher Tim Hudson underwent back surgery for a herniated disc on Monday, but doctors said the 36-year-old right-hander should be ready for spring training.

His back bothered him to varying degrees for the past two seasons, though surgery wasn't necessitated until the pain increased during Hudson’s 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 this past season, 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 for the upcoming season, that last of a three-year, $28 million contract extension that also has a $9 million option for 2013 with a $1 million buyout.

“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 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 in that period, 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 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 his back stiffness sidelined him for that one turn in May. He was 9-2 with a 2.09 ERA in his next 14 starts.