Wednesday’s injury to Tim Hudson added a decided amount of insult to an already injury-riddled Atlanta Braves team.
Hudson broke his ankle in gruesome fashion when New York Mets’ Eric Young Jr. stepped on the starter’s leg during a play at first base. As the Braves’ ace crumpled to the ground, so too may have their playoff hopes.
The veteran is by far the most experienced postseason pitcher on the Braves roster. Having logged 54.2 innings in 10 games and posting a career 3.42 playoff ERA, Hudson was sure to be the Braves’ no. 1 starter in post-season play. The only other starting pitcher on the roster with any postseason experience is Kris Medlen (he pitched the wild card game against the St. Louis Cardinals last season).
With the injury to Hudson, the Braves lose more than just a starting pitcher who was experiencing a great run of form — they lose an unequivocal clubhouse leader.
The right-hander has been with the Braves since 2005 when he was acquired from the Oakland Athletics. This makes him the longest-tenured Braves player along with Brian McCann (McCann made his major league debut that same year). And with 15 major league seasons under his belt, Hudson has more experience than the Braves’ other four current starters combined (Mike Minor has three seasons, Julio Teheran three, Kris Medlen five, and Alex Wood is a rookie).
The saving grace for the Braves may be the return of Brandon Beachy. Beachy will replace Hudson in the rotation and if he can recreate his pre-injury form from 2011, the Braves may not miss a beat this regular season. But that’s a lot of weight to place on the shoulders of man who hasn’t thrown a big league inning in well over a year.
However, Hudson’s injury will reverberate throughout the rest of the season and into the playoffs one way or another. It could be the catalyst the sputtering Braves need to kick-start the rest of their season. More than once before has a team rallied behind an injury to a leader, and Hudson may prove to be the obstacle that brings the team together and turns their season around.
All that being said, Hudson’s presence will be sorely missed – not least of all because he may well have thrown his last pitch as a member of the Atlanta Braves.