Hudson cementing status as staff ace

Hudson cementing status as staff ace

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- When Tim Hudson opposes the Phillies in April, he will not be taking the same approach he took against them at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex on Wednesday afternoon. But the veteran right-hander would certainly like to realize the same kind of results.

"He pitched like an ace today," manager Bobby Cox said after watching Hudson limit the Philadelphia to just three hits in six scoreless innings.

Hudson encountered few problems during this 81-pitch effort that was completed against a lineup that included Jimmy Rollins, Raul Ibanez, Ryan Howard and Shane Victorino. Rollins began the game with an inconsequential single and Placido Polanco accounted for the only other two hits, including a fourth-inning double that served as his team's only extra-base hit of the day.

"You try not to pitch them exactly the way you would during the year," Hudson said. "But at the same time, you don't want to back up third every inning out here. I was showing them some things that I'll probably show them during the year. But at the same time, the sequence isn't exactly how I would approach it during the year."

During each of the three full seasons he has completed since joining the Braves in 2005, Hudson has made at least four starts against the Phillies. With the likelihood that he's bound to see them at least this many times again this year, the 34-year-old right-hander has likely thrown his final pitch in the Grapefruit League this year.

With his next scheduled start to be made on Monday, when Atlanta travels to Clearwater, Fla., to face Philadelphia, Hudson is planning to instead complete six or seven innings in a Minor League game.

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"It's late in the year," Hudson said. "I've got six innings against them now. The next start is going to be seven innings. By then, I really want to be honing in on how I'm going to be pitching at the end of the year. Besides that, I don't want to make the road trip to Clearwater. It's too far."

Hudson's jovial response about Clearwater comes near the end of a successful Spring Training, during which he hasn't allowed more than a run in any of the five starts he's made. He's provided every indication that he has regained all of the strength that he had before undergoing Tommy John surgery that limited him to seven September starts last year.

But while pitching against the Phillies amid warm temperatures, Hudson started to realize that he still must build his endurance before entering the regular season.

During his sixth and final inning, Hudson survived the test provided by the top of Philadelphia's lineup. Rollins grounded out and Polanco was picked off first base after recording a single. After Ibanez drew a walk, Howard ended the dominant outing with a groundout.

Solving Howard again provided a fitting finish for the Braves right-hander, who has seen the Phillies first baseman damage him with a .353 (12-for-34) batting average and five homers during their regular-season matchups.

"In the fifth and sixth innings, I could just tell that I was getting a little tired," Hudson said. "My legs started feeling a little fatigued. I was able to battle through it. Especially in the sixth inning, I had [Nos.] 1, 2, 3, coming up. It was definitely a good test. I was able to smoke and mirror them in that last inning."

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