The Braves’ vaunted rotation depth will be tested in April, as Tim Hudson expects to miss at least the first month of the season following back surgery on Nov. 28.
Hudson hoped to avoid the surgery and thus didn’t have it until two months after the Braves wrapped their 2011 season. That delay will cost the team in 2012.
“Me getting back for the start of the season was never really a possibility, just from a timeline standpoint,” Hudson said. “The kind of surgery I had is a three-to-sixth-month deal. Five months puts me at May 1.”
Hudson likely would have replaced Derek Lowe as the Braves’ Opening Day starter if healthy. Now that nod could go to Jair Jurrjens, though Jurrjens too is coming off an injury. If things go as hoped, Atlanta will have a rotation of Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson, Brandon Beachy, Mike Minor and either Randall Delgado or Julio Teheran initially. Kris Medlen is another candidate to step in, but the Braves would prefer to leave him in the bullpen.
Hudson went 16-10 with a 3.22 ERA in 215 innings for the Braves last season. He’s owed $9 million this year in the final guaranteed season of his contract, but barring a meltdown, his $9 million option for 2013 will surely be exercised.
Lost in the nifty base running by Dustin Pedroia that won Sunday’s game against the Rays, the Red Sox set a new major league record by striking out 11 batters in a row, per Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe. Starter Eduardo Rodriguez struck out the final six Rays he faced and reliever Heath Hembree struck out five Rays in a row after that. Tom Seaver had the previous consecutive strikeout streak of 10, set on April 22, 1970 against the Padres.
The Red Sox also set a team record with 23 strikeouts in total: 13 by Rodriguez, five by Hembree, one by Matt Barnes, and four by Joe Kelly. Per Abraham, that’s the most strikeouts in a 10-inning game since at least 1913 and the most in a game of any length since 2004.
For Rodriguez, Sunday marked the first double-digit strikeout game of his career. He has pitched quite well since returning to the rotation at the start of the second half. Over 13 starts, the lefty has a 3.10 ERA with a 70/23 K/BB ratio in 72 2/3 innings.
Dodgers second baseman Charlie Culberson delivered a walk-off solo home run in the bottom of the 10th inning, clinching the NL West for the Dodgers on Sunday afternoon. What a way to celebrate Vin Scully’s final home game behind the microphone.
The Dodgers were trailing 2-1 in the seventh inning, but shortstop Corey Seager tripled in a run to tie the game. Rockies outfielder David Dahl untied the game in the top of the ninth with a two-out solo home run off of Kenley Jansen. But Seager once again rose to the occasion, blasting a game-tying solo shot in the bottom half of the ninth against Adam Ottavino. That would set the stage for Culberson in the next frame.
Culberson, a former Rockie, came into the afternoon with a .591 OPS and zero home runs in 53 plate appearances. He finished the afternoon 3-for-5 with the homer.
It’s the fourth consecutive season in which the Dodgers have won the NL West. The Cubs have clinched the best record, which means they’ll play the winner of the Wild Card game. The Dodgers will play the Nationals in the NLDS. The Nationals have a 1.5-game lead over the Dodgers for home-field advantage, so both teams are still playing for something of importance in the regular season’s final week.