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Road back to postseason eventful for Hudson

Road back to postseason eventful for Hudson

ATLANTA -- A year ago, Braves pitcher Tim Hudson was rebounding from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. On Sunday at 4:30 p.m. ET on TBS, he'll be on the mound in Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Turner Field against the Giants and Jonathan Sanchez.

With the best-of-five series tied at a game apiece, Hudson will be attempting to accomplish something he hasn't done since 2001 -- win a game in the postseason.

"Huddy has had a great year," Braves manager Bobby Cox said before the his club came from behind to defeat the Giants, 5-4, in 11 innings at AT&T Park on Friday night to tie the series. "I think he would have been in the running for the Cy Young, but he had three or four games there lately when he gave up some runs. He's come a long way. He pitched [late] last August [and September], which helped him to get through this season. To me, he's pitched like the old Tim Hudson."

Hudson made 13 starts in 2009 -- six while rehabbing in the Minors and the other seven for Atlanta. This year, he was 17-9 with a 2.83 ERA in 34 starts, earning the NL Comeback Player of the Year Award for his post-recovery success. Francisco Liriano of the Twins earned the honors in the American League.

"Having the Tommy John surgery was really a blessing in disguise," Hudson said via a conference call during Saturday's off-day. "Any time you have major surgery at 34 years old, it's never a good thing. But for me, the rehab process really rejuvenated my arm and my shoulder. You put into the rehab what you want to get out of it. It was either work hard and renew my career or don't do it and my career would've been over.

"It's worked out. I feel like I still have a few good years left in me."

Hudson's 2010 record was his best since going 18-9 with a 3.37 ERA in 32 starts for the A's in 2001, the same year he defeated the Yankees in the ALDS for his only postseason win.

Overall in the playoffs, Hudson is 1-3 with a 3.97 ERA in nine appearances, eight of them starts. He last threw in the playoffs in 2005 for the Braves, starting twice and losing once in the NLDS to the Astros, who knocked them out in four games. The Braves haven't been back to the postseason since.

Hudson blew out his elbow in '08 and had surgery on Aug. 8 of that season. He was back and on track in his Minor League rehab in less than a year -- by July 19, 2009.

"In Spring Training, his sinker was darting and his cutter was cutting harder than it did the year before," Braves catcher Brain McCann said about Hudson's comeback. "Usually it takes a full year to recover [from that surgery], and then the next year, you're supposed to be on top of your game.

"What he's done this year has been remarkable. To be able to come back from Tommy John, be a Cy Young candidate and carry us to where we are here now, I tip my hat to him. He's a competitor and he worked as hard as he could to get back to where he is."

As Cox indicated, Hudson has slumped of late. In his last seven starts dating back to Sept. 2, Hudson is 2-4, having allowed 26 earned runs in his last 50 innings for a 4.68 ERA during that span.

He was the winning pitcher this past Sunday, when the Braves prevailed over the Phillies, 8-7, to snag the NL Wild Card berth. Atlanta was leading, 8-2, and hung on for the victory. The two-spot came in the third inning off Hudson on pinch-hitter John Mayberry's two-run homer.

Hudson, once a part of the great Oakland trio that included Barry Zito -- now with the Giants -- and the retired Mark Mulder, has had a week off and is ready to go.

"This time of year, any extra days of rest are always a welcome thing," Hudson said. "Having seven days off is going to be a good thing for me. I feel really good physically. I was able to throw a couple of [bullpen sessions] while we were in San Francisco to stay sharp. I feel like a lot of things are coming together for me."

Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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