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Hudson to start Sunday's DC opener

Hudson to start opener for Braves

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- For more than a month, Tim Hudson has known he's been on schedule to be the Braves' Opening Day starter. But at the same time, he has always contended he's never received verbal verification that he'll be receiving this honor.

Until he finishes his exhibition season finale against the Mets in Port St. Lucie, Fla., on Tuesday afternoon, Hudson likely won't receive confirmation that he's starting Sunday night's season opener against the Nationals. But at least now, he has further indication that his assumption was true.

When asked Monday morning if he was planning to pitch Hudson during Sunday in Washington, D.C., Cox simply replied, "More or less."

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This will be Hudson's fifth career Opening Day assignment and the second since he joined the Braves before the start of the 2005 season. But with the Nationals opening their new stadium in front of ESPN's national viewing audience, the veteran right-hander, who won 16 games last year, knows there will be added excitement.

"With any Opening Day, it's exciting," Hudson said. "Any stadium in the country is going to have a playoff-type atmosphere on Opening Day. In D.C., it shouldn't be any different. There should be a lot of excited fans there to check out the new stadium and all of that."

After at least conceding Hudson will be given the Opening Day assignment, Cox also confirmed his plan to have Tom Glavine pitch Monday night's home opener against the Pirates. It will be a nice way to kick off a homecoming for Glavine, who will be pitching for the Braves for the first time since 2002.

Glavine, who spent the past five seasons with the Mets, will conclude his preseason preparations by pitching in a Minor League game at Disney on Tuesday afternoon.

If everything stays on schedule, the first week of the regular season will be an eventful one for Glavine. The 300-game winner's second start would come Saturday, April 5, against the Mets, who could start Johan Santana -- the dominant ace who is essentially taking Glavine's place in the starting rotation.

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After the first two games of the year, Cox doesn't know the exact makeup of his rotation. The uncertainty centers around John Smoltz, who remains expected to begin this season on the disabled list.

One certainty is that the Braves and Smoltz don't seem overly concerned about the tightness he's feeling between his neck and right shoulder. The 40-year-old hurler hopes to play catch Tuesday and possibly pitch in a Minor League game on Wednesday or Thursday.

Even if all goes well with Smoltz's shoulder this week, the Braves will probably still place him on the disabled list because they would still be able to activate him in time to start the series finale against the Mets during the regular season's first weekend.

At the same time, their pitching staff wouldn't be short-handed for the season's first five games. They could choose to carry one of the out-of-option pitchers that they fear could be lost via waivers.

Before the Smoltz situation, Cox had planned to put a right-handed pitcher between Mike Hampton and Glavine in the rotation. But at the same time, he said he doesn't think it's vital to split these two left-handers up just to prevent a team from seeing southpaws on consecutive days.

"We had them split initially and then we had to shuffle," Cox said. "But it doesn't make any difference. A lot of times, they don't even face the same team."

Cox also said that he could still separate these two veteran left-handers by pitching Jair Jurrjens during the season's third game. Hampton, who hasn't pitched in a regular-season game since 2005, would then pitch the season's fourth contest, which would be the April 3 series finale against the Pirates. Hudson would make his second start the following day in a series opener against the Mets.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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