Alabama native grew up 'idolizing' Braves
Now that he will join Smoltz in the Atlanta rotation, Hudson hopes to help the Braves finish atop the division for an unprecedented 14th straight season.
"I grew up idolizing those guys," Hudson said Friday. "When I was out in Oakland, there were a lot of comparisons to the Atlanta staff. I was blown away just being compared to those guys."
The Braves introduced Hudson, who grew up in east Alabama and starred at Auburn, a day after acquiring him in a deal that sent top pitching prospect Dan Meyer, outfielder Charles Thomas and reliever Juan Cruz to the Athletics.
The 29-year-old Hudson has a .702 career winning percentage, which ranks third in history among pitchers with 100 decisions. Oakland general manager Billy Beane called Hudson, who was visiting with family members in Auburn, to tell him of the trade.
"There's obviously a lot of emotions over the last day," Hudson said. "This is the first time we've ever had to deal with something like this. There's obviously a lot of sadness involved. On the other hand, there's also a lot of excitement."
According to Hudson, the cost-conscious A's never approached him about extending a contract that expires after the 2005 season. He will earn $5 million next season.
Smoltz, who agreed to return to the rotation after setting a franchise record with 154 saves, reached terms on a new agreement Thursday that will pay him $20 million through 2006. Hudson has yet to discuss a long-term contract with the Braves, but he hopes either to sign a new deal or to put talks on hold before spring training starts in two months.
"Come spring training, I don't want the focus to be on the contract," Hudson said. "Nobody likes this part of baseball. I don't have to like it, but I do understand it."
Oakland drafted Hudson in the sixth round of 1997, the same year he was named Southeastern Conference Player of the Year. He went 20-6 with a 4.14 ERA in 2000, his first full season in the majors.
His 81 victories over the last five years tied him for most in the AL and fifth overall. Braves general manager John Schuerholz and Hudson disputed any lingering problems from the strained left oblique muscle that left him under 30 starts and 200 innings for the first time in five years.
Even so, Hudson finished 12-6 with a 3.53 ERA with 103 strikeouts and 44 walks in 188 2/3 innings. Schuerholz first approached Beane about Hudson as the GM meetings last month in Key Biscayne, Fla.
"We feel the addition of Tim to our starting rotation, with John Smoltz coming back and the addition of Dan Kolb as closer gives us as formidable a pitching staff as we've had in a long time," Schuerholz said. "When you can acquire a player of Tim's caliber and excellence, he becomes a leader not only of our pitching staff but our team as well."
Last season was the first Atlanta entered since '91 without a true ace. Tom Glavine left to sign with the New York Mets in 2003, and Greg Maddux signed with the Chicago Cubs last offseason. Though Russ Ortiz led the NL with 21 wins in '03, he allowed 112 walks, second-most in the NL, and his ERA rose 18 points to 4.13.
"We've had some great pitching staffs all these years or we wouldn't have won that many divisional titles," Cox said. "That's for sure. It's been our history here in Atlanta to have good pitching, and once again we're going to have great pitching."
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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