ATLANTA -- His teammates may have pointed to Tim Hudson's season-ending ankle injury as a rallying cry that has sparked the Braves' 13-game winning streak entering Friday, but the 15-year veteran was quick to flip the script and put a humorous spin on his recent absence on Friday afternoon, when he returned to the clubhouse for the first time since his injury.
"They haven't lost since I left, so I told them if they didn't win tonight, I might not come back the rest of the year," Hudson said on Friday afternoon. "It's been fun to watch sitting around. I feel like a big brother sitting back watching their little brothers play and kick everybody's butt. I'm very proud of them for sure."
Two weeks removed from his surgery, Hudson spoke to reporters with a cast on his right foot, where he suffered a fractured fibula and damaged deltoid ligament in his right ankle. Hudson suffered the injury on July 24 when Mets outfielder Eric Young Jr. stepped on the ankle as the pitcher covered first base. Hudson planned to meet with doctors on Friday night with the hope of moving from his cast into a walking boot.
"[Dr. Marvin Royster] said everything went awesome, went as great as it could've gone, and it feels like it did [before the injury]," Hudson said. "I can walk around without crutches right now. It's kind of hard with a cast on. I think that's why they're going to get me in a walking boot. It is what it is. I'm going to heal up."
The vintage start he was putting together on the night of the injury only accentuated the shock of the freak accident to the team and the rest of the baseball world. Hudson was overwhelmed by the league-wide outpouring of support in the subsequent days, noting that he had received messages from Geoff Jenkins and Jason Kendall, both of whom endured similarly grisly ankle injuries in their careers.
Hudson also recounted his excitement at watching from home as his teammates elevated their level of play in the past two weeks. The Atlanta offense has averaged 5.92 runs per game over the team's 13-game unbeaten streak, and the starting rotation turned in a series of solid outings over a perfect six-game road trip to help the Braves build a 15 1/2-game lead in the National League East heading into Friday's action.
"This [stinks], what has happened to me, but I'm so fired up for how the team's been doing," Hudson said. "The opportunities that Alex Wood has, and having [Brandon] Beachy coming back from his Tommy John [surgery] and going through this process, getting him back into the mix of things, that's been awesome to see. The other guys at the top of rotation, they've just been going out there and [have] been lights-out every time out."
Manager Fredi Gonzalez reiterated his desire for Hudson to spend as much time as he could around the team and in the clubhouse down the stretch this season, a nod to the leadership role the right-hander has assumed in his nine years in Atlanta. Hudson's future with the team becomes more uncertain when he hits free agency this winter, but for the time being, those questions took a backseat to his recovery process and an eventual return to full strength.
"I would love to be here, obviously," Hudson said. "I think that really goes without saying, but my main concern right now is to get healthy. I know the surgery went really well. We're going to start some light therapy stuff, and I'm going to just rehab the [heck] out of it, and I'm going to work out to be ready hopefully to be here next year, but if not, I still feel very confident that this isn't going to hold me back from playing beyond this year."
Just as his teammates and manager predicted at the time of the injury, Hudson confirmed with his words and his presence on Friday that what appeared to have been a gruesome and potentially career-ending injury would not keep him away from the game for any longer than absolutely necessary.
"From a personal standpoint, I've had a great, long career, and I don't plan for it to be over yet," he said. "Whether I'm continuing my career here or somewhere else."
Eric Single is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.