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Braves shift Hudson's return to Tuesday

Braves shift Hudson's return to Tuesday

PHILADELPHIA -- A combination of health concerns and roster issues have led the Braves to determine Tim Hudson will have to wait one more day to make his much-anticipated return to their starting rotation.

Early Sunday evening, Braves manager Bobby Cox announced that Kenshin Kawakami will now take his regular turn in the rotation in Monday night's series opener against the Marlins at Land Shark Stadium.

Hudson's first start since undergoing Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery will now occur against the Marlins on Tuesday night.

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This decision prevents the Braves from having to make room on their 25-man roster for Hudson. When he's activated from the 60-day disabled list Tuesday, the 25-man rosters will have been expanded.

With injury-related uncertainty surrounding Nate McLouth, Ryan Church and Adam LaRoche, the Braves couldn't afford to option a position player to Triple-A Gwinnett with the understanding that they may be forced to stay in the Minors for at least 10 days.

"Kawakami is fine to pitch," Cox said. "It's his regular turn. We wanted to give him a breather, so we'll just give him a breather after this. We just can't afford to drop somebody off of our team for one day."

On Thursday the Braves had announced that they'd skip Kawakami's next start and fill his rotation spot with Hudson, who will be making his first start since undergoing Tommy John surgery last year.

But this plan began to unravel Saturday night, when McLouth aggravated his strained left hamstring and LaRoche was hobbled by a sore right hip. Adding to the injury woes, Church was scratched from Sunday night's lineup because of lower back discomfort that has bothered him for more than a week.

"I need a chiropractor, but I don't have one," Church said. "It's too late in the year to sit out. I'll go until it blows out or gets better." 

While LaRoche felt strong enough to return to Sunday's lineup, McLouth will gain a better understanding about his immediate future Monday, when he undergoes an MRI exam in Atlanta.

If they were going to activate Hudson on Monday, it appears the Braves were prepared to make room for him by optioning a position player. Already short-handed because of these aforementioned injuries, they couldn't afford to lose this position player for 10 days.

"This is the best way to do it," Cox said. "We don't want to lose anybody."

Hudson, who had traveled to Miami on Sunday to prepare for Monday night's start, had no problems with this adjustment. The 34-year-old right-hander, who will be making his first start since July 23, 2008, sent a text that read, "I'm pretty flexible."

When the Braves announced that they were skipping Kawakami, they explained that the 24 starts that he's made this year already exceeded the average total (23) he'd made during his playing days in Japan.

Kawakami, who traveled to Miami after learning of this switch early Sunday evening, said last week that he wasn't too concerned about his right shoulder that has provided him discomfort at different points throughout his first full season in the United States.

After Hudson starts Tuesday night, the remainder of Atlanta's rotation will be pushed back one day. The Braves will evaluate the makeup of their rotation as this week progresses. But it doesn't appear that they're looking to utilize a six-man rotation for the remainder of the season.

Cox said that he quickly shot down the possibility of bringing Tommy Hanson back to start Monday. Because of two lengthy rain delays, Hanson was limited to two innings during Friday night's start in Philadelphia.

"This gives everybody an extra day of rest, which this time of year isn't a bad idea," Cox said.

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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