LAWRENCEVILLE — Tim Hudson was wearing a mighty heavy brace packed with ice on his throwing arm after a relatively stress-free night of pitching on Monday night.
Atlanta’s right-hander only needed 41 pitches to make it through four innings of a rehab outing with the Triple-A Gwinnett Braves (57-46) against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs at Gwinnett Stadium.
In his first of four anticipated rehab appearances with the G-Braves, Hudson took control early with a first pitch strike on the outside corner. That set the tone for the night with 27 of the 41 pitches going for strikes before he left the game and with a 2-0 lead.
Gwinnett scored four runs in the bottom of the fourth and won the series finale against the IronPigs 7-2.
“I felt really good out there tonight,” Hudson said shortly after leaving the game. “My sinker was working good and I was able to keep the ball down in the strike zone and get some ground ball outs.”
“He was throwing the ball nicely tonight,” G-Braves manager Dave Brundage said. “He was throwing better than I expected.”
This marked Hudson’s third outing of the season. His first two outings were with Single-A Myrtle Beach since having Tommy John surgery last August.
Hudson, who last pitched with Atlanta a year ago, feels like throwing against Triple-A caliber hitters is a better indicator of where his arm stands for a return to the majors.
“Obviously, you have Triple-A hitters in there, they have a pretty veteran lineup over there,” Hudson added. “It’s nice to see guys up there that seem like they have a plan when they come up to hit.
“A lot of young guys, when you’re pitching against some of the younger clubs, they’re up there just swinging and it’s hard to work on some pitches and it’s kind of hard to stay in the strike zone because they’re swinging at everything.”
Hudson did allow one hit in each inning on the mound but had little difficulty pitching around his mistakes, including enducing a double play against the final Lehigh Valley (49-53) hitter he faced. The G-Braves infield recorded seven outs on ground balls during Hudson’s stint on the mound.
Hudson is going to try and pick up his velocity and work on fine tuning his release points before rejoining Atlanta, hopefully in mid-August to be a part of its playoff run. His next start for the G-Braves is scheduled for either Friday against the Rochester Red Wings or Saturday against the Columbus Clippers, with a pitch and inning count limit still not determined.
“He’s been off for a year now,” Brundage said. “So he needs these minor league outings to get back in the mix.”
“I’m working on building up my innings and volume of pitches each time out,” said Hudson, adding he hopes to go five innings next time out. “When you start pushing it too much, that’s when you have set backs.”
The G-Braves scored a pair of runs in the first inning. Gregor Blanco singled and scored on an infield error, and then Chris Burke scored for the G-Braves on a sacrifice fly from Brooks Conrad.
Then in the fourth, Conrad hit a solo home run, Brandon Jones scored on an RBI single, J.C. Holt came in to score on a balk and Brian Barton scored on a sacrifice fly. Brooks Conrad finished the game 3-for-4 and a run scored. Burke added three hits for Gwinnett.
The G-Braves now have won eight of their last nine games. With a Durham win on Monday, the G-Braves remain one game back in the International League Southern Division standings.
Gwinnett plays host to Rochester at 7 tonight.