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Hudson has Tommy John surgery

Hudson has Tommy John

PHOENIX -- Dr. James Andrews was a popular person throughout the Braves organization on Friday. He performed Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery on Tim Hudson and also became the latest doctor to determine Rafael Soriano's right elbow troubles haven't been caused by structural damage.

Hudson's surgical procedure went as planned, and he'll now begin a rehab process that will likely last a full year. As for Soriano, his availability for the 2009 season will be more clear once Andrews and the Braves' medical staff determines whether his elbow discomfort is a result of a damaged ulnar nerve.

Andrews told Soriano that he could resume a throwing program and begin pitching again if he doesn't feel any discomfort. But if the elbow continues to be a problem, the noted surgeon has recommended that the right-handed reliever undergo an exploratory orthroscopy that could determine he needs a ulnar nerve transposition.

After former Braves closer Chris Reitsma was forced to have his ulnar nerve transposed, he missed the final three months of the 2006 season, made 26 appearances in 2007 and decided to retire when he didn't make the Mariners Opening Day roster this year.

Reitsma's problems may have been more complex and likely were linked to the broken elbow he suffered in 1997. But Soriano has had issues with his elbow in the past. He underwent Tommy John surgery late in the 2004 season and missed most of the '05 season.

Since signing a two-year, $9 million contract in January, Soriano has made just 14 appearances this year. He experienced some elbow discomfort during the early portion of Spring Training and has made three trips to the disabled list this year.

While there's still a chance Soriano could pitch again this year, Hudson's timetable is more clear. The 33-year-old right-hander, whose .655 career winning percentage ranks second among all active Major Leaguers with at least 200 decisions, is hoping to return to the Atlanta rotation in early August next year.

Hudson, who went 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.

Hudson was removed from his July 23 start at Dolphin Stadium after just 68 pitches. He'd completed six scoreless innings against the Marlins and was forced to exit because of discomfort below his elbow. At the time, he thought he was suffering from a forearm strain caused by the fact that he'd thrown more split-finger fastballs than usual.

Hudson has said that he didn't experience any discomfort before that start against the Marlins.

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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