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Hudson ends spring training on a good note
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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. Tim Hudson was happy with his final tuneup for Atlanta’s season opener, while the New York Mets decided not to let their NL East rivals get a good look at Johan Santana.

Hudson pitched effectively into the fourth inning of New York’s 5-4 victory over the Braves, but Santana prepared for his opening-day outing by facing minor leaguers Tuesday.

Slated to start Sunday night at Washington, Hudson allowed three runs — one earned — and one hit in 3 1-3 innings. He struck out two and walked two.

"Now you get out of spring-training mode and get into real-game mode," Hudson said. "You think about who you’re going to be facing, so I’m thinking about some game plans, checking out some scouting reports, that kind of thing. For me, my season starts today. It starts right now."

The right-hander gave up a homer to Raul Casanova on a changeup Tuesday, but struck out Carlos Beltran.

"I feel pretty confident with just about everything," Hudson said. "I tried to throw all my pitches a handful of times, threw some good cutters. My cutter was a pitch that I really wanted to try to throw today in some situations and I threw some good ones, got some good swings and misses."

Santana started in a minor league game so he wouldn’t have to face the Braves twice in two weeks. He’ll get the ball next Monday on opening day at Florida, then make his second start of the season in Atlanta.

The left-hander said Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson approached him about throwing in the minor league game Tuesday.

"We got everything done," Santana said. "We did everything we were supposed to do today and I feel great. We’re going to focus on the season."

The two-time Cy Young Award winner threw 81 pitches and said he’s ready for the season to begin.

"I’m looking forward to that," Santana said. "I’m very excited and hopefully it’s going to be a fun season."

Braves manager Bobby Cox was happy with the pitching performances of Hudson, along with Rafael Soriano and Chris Resop.

"Hudson was just perfect. Soriano again, he has struck out seven of the last nine outs," Cox said. "Resop struck out three, too. They all looked good."

Pitching in place of Santana, minor leaguer Jonathan Niese went 4 2-3 innings for the Mets and allowed two runs. He walked six and struck out one.

Also, New York left fielder Moises Alou returned to camp. He has been out since having surgery for a hernia March 6 and hopes to return by the end of April.

Alou said he wanted to greet his teammates and be around the players for a bit before the start of the season.

"I’m optimistic about my rehab and how it’s going," Alou said. "I’m very pleased and I’m feeling a lot better than how I felt about a week or two weeks ago."

Alou will start the season on the disabled list.

"It was devastating, and it still is," he said. "Opening day is next week and I’m not going to be there."

The 41-year-old Alou has been cleared to ride a bike and is expected to start jogging next week. Baseball activities could follow the next week.

Alou said he didn’t do anything specific before the pain started. He considered trying to play through it, but the sharp pain forced him to consult the medical staff.

"I was looking good and I was feeling good and all of a sudden it just happened," he said.

Alou hit well for the Mets when he was able to play last season. He batted .341 in 87 games and had 13 home runs. This season, Angel Pagan could fill in while Alou is out. Pagan made a diving catch against Atlanta on Tuesday.

"If you’re a good team, you have to have a good bench," Alou said. "I think we’re good enough to not just replace me, but replace anyone."Notes: Mets manager Willie Randolph said it hasn’t been determined whether reliever Duaner Sanchez will be able to pitch in back-to-back games before the end of spring training. Randolph also said the roster might not be finalized until after the team leaves Florida on Friday for Memphis, Tenn. ... The Braves announced their rotation for their first four games. Hudson will be followed by Tom Glavine in Monday’s home opener against Pittsburgh. Rookie RHP Jair Jurrjens will start Wednesday’s against the Pirates, followed by Mike Hampton on Thursday. Cox moved Jurrjens up in the rotation to pitch between the two left-handers, Glavine and Hampton.

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