Manager Fredi Gonzalez ended the debate by choosing Tim Hudson as the Atlanta Braves‘ Opening Day starter to set up a showdown between Hudson and Philadelphia Phillies‘ pitcher Cole Hamels on April 1 at Turner Field.
Hudson’s main competitor for the honor was Kris Medlen, and I thought that was the direction Gonzalez was going with the spring training rotation. Neither of the two pitchers have very strong numbers this spring. Following his six shutout innings on Thursday, Hudson has a 4.15 ERA and 1.27 WHIP while striking out 10 batters in 26 innings. Medlen has a 6.27 ERA and 1.34 WHIP with 14 strikeouts in 18.2 innings. It’s worth noting that Medlen gave up nine of his 13 earned runs in his last start against the Phillies.
Take out the one bad outing, and Medlen has been the more effective pitcher between the two. However, this is a decision that goes beyond numbers. Starting Opening Day is not a do-or-die game like a playoff game. This makes it an honor more than anything to get the nod on Opening Day.
That’s why I think Gonzalez made the right choice. Hudson’s days are numbered. He’s a free agent after this season, and it’s no secret the Braves choose youth over experience more times than not. Even if they do re-sign him, the 37-year-old pitcher won’t pitch for many years past 2014. This could be his last shot at starting on Opening Day.
Gonzalez could have chosen Medlen to further signify the youth movement that has transpired on the roster over the off-season, but the choice to go with Hudson demonstrates this is Hudson’s team in 2013. There is no Chipper Jones, David Ross, Martin Prado or Eric Hinske, leaving a lack of veteran presence on the roster. That makes his impact in the clubhouse more vital this season.
Hudson has been a team leader since his arrival in Atlanta and will be once again this season. His leadership will not show up in the box score but will play a vital role in this team’s success. It all starts on April 1 on Opening Day.