Braves say losing team leader Hudson was a big blow

Tim Hudson’s broken ankle in Wednesday night’s win against the Mets was an injury so gruesome, Braves teammate Freddie Freeman couldn’t bear to watch the replay.

When the crowd at Citi Field saw it replayed on the stadium video board moments after the eighth-inning incident, there was an audible gasp that only confirmed to Hudson what he already knew.

“He grabbed my hand,” said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, who had run out to Hudson as soon as the pitcher fell to the grass, writhing in pain. “We heard the (crowd reaction). It didn’t sound good. But he already knew something was not well. He goes, ‘It’s not good. It’s not good.’”

Hudson, pitching a four-hit shutout at the time, sustained a fractured right ankle when Eric Young, trying to beat a throw to first on a groundout, stepped on his leg just above the ankle. It rolled the ankle inward all the way to the ground.

The 38-year-old pitcher was to fly back to Atlanta with the team after Thursday’s game and have season-ending surgery once some of the swelling subsides in the next few days.

“It’s terrible,” said second baseman Dan Uggla, who hit one of the Braves’ three home runs in Wednesday’s 8-2 win, but was solemn afterward. “That’s a big blow. Huddy is such a leader on the field and in the clubhouse and in the dugout when he’s not pitching. So this is a tough one.”

Late into the night, teammates and others stopped by to see the fallen pitcher and his wife, Kim, in their hotel room.

“There was a line out the door, between players and staff and coaches,” Gonzalez said. “You think about him and the competitor that he is and what he brings to our club. But I think you’ve got to rally behind this. As a team and as a pitching staff, this is a good rallying point.

“We’re going to miss him, but we’ve got a good club. I told him before I left him last night, I want you around. I want you around in crutches or a boot, whatever it is. But I want you there and being supportive. I said, ‘I’ll even let you manage a couple of games if you want to do that. Sit here next to me and make the decisions.’ He said, ‘Oh, no, I don’t want to do that.’

“He’ll be fine. I don’t think that (Wednesday) night’s game is going to be the last time we’re going to see him on the mound. The way he is, as soon as this surgery gets done, he’s going to hit the rehab dead-on. And we’ll see him on the mound.”

Hudson is in the option year of his contract and will be a free agent after the season. He won his last four starts and will finish with an 8-7 record and 3.97 ERA in 21 starts, including a 2.73 ERA in his past 10.

“Huddy’s the heart and soul of our pitching staff,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said.

The Alabama native and former Auburn standout has a 205-111 career record and 3.44 ERA in 15 seasons, including 113-72 in nine seasons with the Braves. Hudson overcame major back surgery and Tommy John surgery in recent years, and set the example for hard work and determination that younger Braves pitchers could follow.

“He’s huge,” McCann said. “I mean, he’s the veteran presence around here that people go to. It’s Tim Hudson. The guy’s got 200 wins and is best teammate you’re ever going to have. Everybody in here feels bad for him.”

Off the field, Hudson and his wife have established deep roots in the community and their charitable work through the Hudson Family Foundation has received national recognition for their assistance for children in need.

There were two runners on base and one out in the eighth inning Wednesday night when Young hit a grounder that bounced off the chest of first baseman Freeman. He retrieved it and tossed the ball to Hudson.

Hudson had reached back twice with his foot to make sure he kept contact with the base and his foot was more than halfway across the bag when Young, already in the air on his final lunging last step, came down at full speed on Hudson’s leg above the ankle.

“There was nowhere for EY to go there, nothing he could do,” Gonzalez said. “It’s a freak play, two guys going for the bag and EY just stepped on him. You cover the bag thousands of times and that stuff never happens.”

Young was distraught as he stood near Hudson, fighting back tears.

“I’m hustling down the line like I always do, going for the base,” he said. “I saw his foot as I’m going for the base, right there in the middle. As I came down, I knew I didn’t get any of the base. I know I got all of his foot. I pretty much knew it was probably broke right as I did it and that’s why I sprinted right back to him and tried to console him as much as I could and apologize.”

Gonzalez said: “He kept telling Timmy, ‘I’m sorry, it wasn’t on purpose or anything.’ And Timmy was telling him, ‘No, I know, it’s just an accident.’”

“I saw them get tangled up,” Uggla said. “I was just hoping he charley-horsed him or something. I didn’t see the extent of it. Once I saw Huddy’s reaction, I was like, oh, no. This isn’t good. … He was kind of in disbelief, obviously in a lot of pain.

“You could see, just the thoughts going through his head, ‘This can’t be happening. … This is unbelievable,’ that sort of thing. I know he was in a lot of pain.”

Hudson was replaced by Luis Avilan, who gave up a two-run double to the next batter, Daniel Murphy. Until the eighth inning, Hudson had allowed only two runners to reach second base and none to reach third.