Braves intend to fill Hudson leadership void as a group

BY foxsports • July 27, 2013

ATLANTA — It wasn’t as simple and putting it in plaster and hoping for the best.

Braves starter Tim Hudson underwent surgery on Friday to repair the season-ending fracture to his right fibula and torn deltoid ligament in his ankle. The injury occurred in the eighth inning of Atlanta's win over the Mets on Wednesday night.

The surgery came as no surprise to anyone who saw video of the play. Hudson covered first after Mets left fielder Eric Young Jr. hit a hard grounder to first baseman Freddie Freeman.

Sprinting to beat the throw, Young landed on Hudson's foot, setting up one of the more gruesome and graphic on-field sports injuries of the last few years.

"I had completed my game (in Durham for the Gwinnett Braves) and was inside," said Brandon Beachy, who was promoted on Thursday and is expected to start in Hudson’s spot Monday. "I went over and checked my phone and had a couple of messages that said, 'Did you see what happened to Huddy?' I found the video shortly after, and it made me sick to my stomach. I felt terrible."

Beachy wasn't alone. "Man, it was tough to see," Justin Upton said Saturday afternoon before the Braves played the Cardinals. "You really hate to lose a guy like that."

While Hudson is expected back in the clubhouse within days, he won’t begin baseball activities until November. That begs an important question: How will the Braves respond to the loss of a three-time All Star, the senior starter and a team leader?

At 38, Hudson is seven years older with six more seasons under his belt than any other Braves starter. No doubt he will be missed both on the field and off.  "Obviously, you're not going to replace a 200-plus game winner, but each guy in the rotation has to go out and do his job," said Braves pitcher Paul Maholm.

Maholm has struggled for the last two months, going 3-6 since June 1. His ERA is currently 4.41. Still, he sees a leadership role for himself and teammates in Hudson’s absence.

"We all have our individual personalities," Maholm said. "Huddy is a hard competitor on the field and kind of laid back in (the clubhouse), so we're all different and we all bring different things."

Another starter, 25-year-old Mike Minor, agreed with that assessment.

"Huddy is a big loss," Minor said. "He's our ace. But guys step up ... No team expects a certain starter to lose. We’ve had guys have injuries all year, and when that's happened people have thought it would slow us down or stop us. But we’ve had people step up or reserve guys on the bench step up all year.

"I think this will be the same thing."

Stepping up was a consistent theme in the clubhouse on Saturday. Second baseman Dan Uggla had obviously put a lot of thought into the matter when he said, "It’s not going to be just one dude who says, 'OK, I’m going to be the leader now.' We do that collectively.

"It was the same thing when Chipper Jones retired. You had people saying, 'How are you going to replace a leader like Chipper?' Well, you can’t. One dude is not going to replace him. It’s a complete package where, collectively, we all lead and we all do the job to finish this thing out."

Manager Fredi Gonzalez didn’t seem concerned about morale or a leadership vacuum. "As a collective unit, guys are going to rally around," he said. "I think we’re going to be okay. Huddy is going to be here. We want him around, so his presence is going to be in the locker room."

One player who seems compelled to step up is Kris Medlen, who is 6-10 with a 3.78 ERA. Medlen feels drawn to be more of a leader among the starters, now that Hudson will be absent.

"I feel that way for sure, and not just because of how I've been pitching my last couple of starts," Medlen said. "Losing Huddy is obviously a big deal for the clubhouse, let along him being as good as he is on the field. Losing that clubhouse presence really sucks overall. But that's the name of the game. You have to respond to this kind of stuff and move on."

Medlen then glanced over at Hudson’s empty locker to his immediate right. "Being at this level and knowing the guys we have in our system, we’ve always had guys come in and do their jobs," he said. "That’s all you can really ask."