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Hudson hoping to avoid surgery

Hudson hoping to avoid surgery

ATLANTA -- Tim Hudson understands that he's likely destined for Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery. But over the course of the next week, the Braves right-hander will attempt to avoid what seems to be the inevitable.

Hudson was evaluated by both Braves physician Dr. Xavier Duralde and noted surgeon Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday. After evaluating the MRI exam that was performed on Monday, both concluded that the 33-year-old hurler will likely need to undergo this surgical procedure, which usually requires at least a full year of rehab.

Still, Hudson has decided that he'll wait at least a few more days before committing to this surgery. Over the span of the past three days, he went from planning to pitch on Tuesday to learning that he might not pitch until August of next year.

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"I'm going to tough it out," Hudson said via a text message sent early Wednesday evening.

By "tough it out," Hudson simply meant that he's going to do whatever he can to avoid the surgery. He fully realizes that he won't be able to pitch the remainder of this season if his ligament is damaged as bad as the MRI has indicated.

After Wednesday's 7-2 loss to the Cardinals, Hudson wasn't available to speak to the media. But Braves director of media relations Brad Hainje said, "Tim is going to go through a short rehab before a decision is made."

Hudson plans to play catch on Sunday. If he continues to feel the same discomfort that prevented him from completing a bullpen session in Philadelphia this past Sunday, he'll likely be forced to undergo the surgery as early as next week.

When Braves right-handed reliever Peter Moylan visited Andrews in April, he was given the opportunity to rehab for two weeks before committing to this same ligament replacement surgery. But once he got back on the mound, he immediately encountered discomfort and was forced him to undergo the surgical procedure.

Hudson has been in a state of denial most of the past week. When he was forced to leave his July 23 start against the Marlins after 68 pitches, he thought he was just battling a forearm strain caused by the fact that he'd thrown more split-finger fastballs than usual.

Although Sunday's bullpen session produced enough concern that he was placed on the 15-day disabled list the next day, Hudson said that he "was floored" when he learned the results of Monday's MRI exam.

Because he isn't feeling any alarming discomfort, Hudson has been wondering if his ligament has been torn or damaged for an extended period. During an April 16 start against the Marlins at Dolphin Stadium, the velocity of his fastball dropped significantly and he lasted just three innings.

Two starts later against the Mets, he was lifted after three innings again. Yet six days later, he tossed a three-hit shutout against the Reds. In his past 16 starts, he has pitched into the seventh inning 11 times.

Hudson, who is 11-7 with a 3.17 ERA in 23 appearances (22 starts) this year, is set to make $13 million in the final year of his contract next year. The contract includes a $12 million option with a $1 million buyout for the 2010 season.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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