Tim Hudson threw 6 shutout innings against the Nationals probable starting lineup and looked ready for his opening day assignment against the Phillies.
It was vintage Hudson; ground ball outs and double plays accompanied by a nasty curve that dived into Bryce Harper so sharply that it not only struck him out, it almost hit his back ankle. The Nationals put out what looked like their everyday lineup against Hudson and started their new number three Dan Haren. Hudson cruised through his innings and even found time throw a first pitch knuckleball to his old buddy Adam LaRoche; well it was a spring training game after all.
After Hudson’s last outing he said he had “a lot of work to do.” He obviously did that in spades as his pitches painted the corners and batters drove them into the ground so the infielders could earn their keep. He was a model of efficiency, throwing only 65 pitches (45 strikes) in his six innings. He never looked like getting into trouble giving up only six hits to go with five strikeouts; he didn’t walk anyone. That made manager Fredi Gonzalez a happy man. After the game he told reporters as much.
“That’s him, right there,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “His command on all his pitches was excellent.”
Hudson’s start came the day after he was named opening day starter by Gonzalez, a job many thought would go to Kris Medlen. Even Medlen however advocated Hudson for the job. It will be Huddy’s first opening day start since 2008. After the announcement ho told reporters:
“It’s an honor and a privilege to pitch on opening day with any club, especially with this team,” Hudson said. “I feel that we have a lot of guy who were deserving of it.”
While Hudson cruised Haren struggled in the early innings and Justin Upton hit another tape measure shot, this time over the 60 foot high wall just left of dead center field. Early this spring he hit a ball that landed near the players parking lot a distance estimated at 450 feet. This ball likely went a lot farther than that. It’s 400 feet to dead center field and using my best guesstimation of the height and angle of the ball it had to land at least 475 feet from home and probably farther. if you didn’t see that shot it is worth a look.
Andrelton Simmons went 1-3 with a walk, Chris Johnson again played first base and went 2-3 with a double, a run and a strikeout while his competition at third Juan Francisco went 1-3 with a run scored. Matt Pagnozzi caught Hudson and spent a lot of time talking with him between innings fueling my belief that he not Evan Gattis will make the initial trip to Atlanta while Brian McCann recovers. Of course that could just be me wanting to see that . Anthony Varvaro closed the game out after Luis Avilan uncharacteristically gave up three runs during his inning of work. Cory Gearrin pitched a scoreless eighth. David Justice has been present this week working and talking with the the Braves outfield. He was particularly impressed with B.J. Upton and felt he improve a lot in Atlanta. He also expressed his pride in the way Jason Heyward was leading by example on and off the field, working hard in the cage and encouraging teammates. Paul Maholm who starts the second game of the season against the Phillies gets a preview of that start today at 1:05 EDT.