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Hudson named opening day starter, leads Braves past Nationals

Tim Hudson was named the Braves' opening day starter on Thursday.

Tim Hudson was named the Braves' opening day starter on Thursday.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Kris Medlen might have already established himself as the rotation’s ace. But as the Braves approach what has the potential to be a memorable season, they have decided to give veteran Tim Hudson the honor of being their opening-day starter.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez announced Thursday afternoon that Hudson will be on the mound when the Braves open the season against the Phillies on April 1 at Turner Field. This will be Hudson’s sixth career opening day start and his third with the Braves.

Though Medlen proved to be one of baseball’s top pitchers while posting a 0.97 ERA across 13 starts during the final two months of last season, it has been assumed this opening-day honor would go to Hudson, who has been a key part of Atlanta’s rotation since joining the club in 2005.

While Medlen has made just 30 career starts, Hudson has made the fourth-most starts (222) in Atlanta history. The only pitchers who have compiled more since the club moved from Milwaukee in 1966 are Phil Niekro, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Greg Maddux.

Both of Hudson’s previous two opening-day starts for the Braves, in 2006 and ’08, occurred on the road. This year, he will have the opportunity to share the experience with his family and friends, who still reside approximately two hours south of Turner Field in and around his native town of Phenix City, Ala.

Hudson has gone 1-0 with a 3.41 ERA in his five previous opening day starts. In 2006, he allowed five earned runs over four innings amid cold and damp conditions at Dodger Stadium. In ’08, he allowed two runs over seven innings during the first game played at Nationals Park.

Derek Lowe was Atlanta’s opening-day starter from 2009-11, and Tommy Hanson was given the honor last year, as Hudson was sidelined while recovering from back surgery.

After missing most of last April, Hudson rebounded to finish the season 16-7 with a 3.62 ERA. He posted a 3.99 ERA in five starts against the Phillies, despite allowing two earned runs or fewer in three of those outings.

Hudson has gone 105-65 with a 3.52 ERA since the Braves acquired him from the A’s in December 2004. Jair Jurrjens is the only other Atlanta pitcher to record as many as 50 wins during that stretch.

When Hudson looks back on his career in Atlanta, he has trouble pinpointing what went wrong when he posted a career-high 4.86 ERA in 2006. He has gone 78-44 with a 3.24 ERA during the six seasons that have followed. Only Roy Halladay, Felix Hernandez, CC Sabathia, Adam Wainwright, Cliff Lee and Matt Cain have posted a better ERA while making at least 150 starts in that span.

Braves drop rival Nationals, 4-3

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla — Maybe they should tell Tim Hudson he’s the opening-day starter before every spring training start.

Hudson, after hearing he would be at the top of the rotation when the Braves open the season before the game, pitched his best game of the spring. He entered with a 5.40 ERA, but slammed the door on the Nationals, throwing six scoreless innings in the Braves’ 4-3 win.

Hudson allowed just six hits, struck out five and didn’t walk anyone.

Justin Upton hit a towering two-run shot to give the Braves an early lead. It was his fifth home run of the spring. He has now driven in 17 runs in 20 games.