Thus, even though it's still the portion of March when results don't matter, right-hander Tim Hudson could still feel good about the strong, six-inning performance he provided in a 3-2 win over Detroit in front of a record crowd of 11,606 at Disney's Champion Stadium on Thursday night.
Even with former Braves Edgar Renteria and Gary Sheffield absent, the Tigers lineup still had most of its firepower. But the formidable trio of Pudge Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera didn't prove too daunting for Hudson, who allowed just one unearned run and five hits over six innings.
"Huddy was outstanding," manager Bobby Cox said. "He had the sinker going and everything. That's maybe the best-hitting lineup in all of baseball."
Though Hudson's sinker and changeup were both good, his coordination was a little off during the first inning, when he bobbled a feed from Mark Teixeira while attempting to beat speedy leadoff hitter Curtis Granderson to the first-base bag.
Granderson would account for the lone unearned run when he scored one batter later on the first of two doubles Placido Polanco would hit off Hudson.
"I had a rabbit running to first," Hudson said while explaining his error. "I was trying to be a rabbit myself and get over there. I was trying to get over there, and all I could see was the whole outfield bouncing up and down. I just missed it. I'm surprised it didn't hit me in the face.
"It was a good feed. My Carl Lewis didn't kick in quite like I wanted it to."
Even if Hudson never finds that world-class speed, it looks as though he is capable of being the ace the Braves want him to be this year. During his 15 Grapefruit League innings, he has surrendered just two earned runs.
As he evaluates what he's done, Hudson is happy that he's been able to escape many jams, such as the one he faced in the fifth inning after surrendering consecutive one-out singles to Justin Verlander and Granderson.
"They're going to be tough to deal with from top to bottom," Hudson said. "It was nice to be able to go out there, get some outs and get some swings early in the count with my changeup. That was good to see.
"All in all, this spring has been a pretty productive one for me," he added. "It wasn't exactly smooth sailing. But it was one when I was able to make some pitches when I needed to."
Hudson, who is on schedule to be the Braves' Opening Day starter, will make his final exhibition-season appearance against the Mets on Tuesday at Port St. Lucie, Fla. Though he'd rather not face a division rival so close to the season, he feels comfortable doing so with the reality that he'll only be scheduled to pitch two or three innings.
"Obviously, I'd rather not face teams that I'm going to face a lot during the year," he said. "But at the same time, it's just one time through the lineup. They're going to see me plenty throughout the year. I don't know that an at-bat or two during Spring Training is going to matter much."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.