The Braves will have some choices to make this winter

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Atlanta is still right in the thick of the wild card race, but even so, the lure of the hot stove is undeniable given their relative embarrassment of starting pitching riches. As MLB.com’s Mark Bowman notes, other teams are thinking about it too:

The Rockies and D-backs both sent scouts to watch Tim Hudson make his
return last night.  Like Hudson, these clubs are wondering whether the
Braves will bring the veteran right-hander back to Atlanta next year.  

Even
as recently as the All-Star break, it appeared the Braves weren’t going
to be willing to bring both Hudson and Javier Vazquez back next year.  

But while there’s still a chance that one of them will be gone
before the start of the 2010 season, there’s also a growing sense that 
both could return to provide Atlanta with a rotation that would be
deeper than any of the great ones it possessed during the 1990s.

Assuming they exercise their option on Hudson, Atlanta will have six good starters lined up for next year: Derek Lowe, Hudson, Vazquez, Kenshin
Kawakami, Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson.  Vazquez is perhaps Atlanta’s best pitcher this year, but (a) he could bring the most in a trade; and (b) he has had trouble putting together solid back-to-back seasons.  In other words, his value may be peaking, and he might be the best bet for helping the Braves grab a much-needed corner bat.

As a Braves fan I’d like to see them keep all six. You have to expect a starting pitcher to go down at some point in the season, and it would be awful nice to have a backup, especially in a year when the Braves will have a good shot at the division.  Jason Heyward could probably play in Atlanta next year, and in light of the Adam Dunn contract this past winter, there’s no reason to think that the Braves couldn’t find a good first baseman or corner outfielder on the relative cheap without parting with starting pitching.

The most depressing possibility — but a distinct one given the Braves’ conservative corporate ownership — would be if they simply declined Hudson’s option and decided to go with the five other guys in order to save money while failing to either ensure or leverage their rotation depth.

Obviously, how Tim Hudson does in his final few starts this year may go a long way in determining what’s going to happen, but here’s hoping for a little imagination on the part of the Atlanta brain trust.

Brandon Morrow injured his back taking off his pants

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The Cubs’ bullpen got into trouble in the ninth inning on Tuesday afternoon during the first game of a doubleheader. Justin Wilson started the inning with the Cubs leading 3-2, normally a situation for closer Brandon Morrow. Wilson issued a leadoff walk to Austin Barnes, then gave up a single to Justin Turner. Morrow wasn’t warming up, curiously. Wilson ended up giving up a go-ahead two-run double to pinch-hitter Kyle Farmer and the Cubs went on to lose 4-3.

We now know why Morrow wasn’t available. He says his back tightened up taking off his pants early Monday morning, MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat reports. Morrow said, “It’s frustrating any time you can’t get out there, especially when you can’t go for something as stupid as taking your pants off.”

Morrow, 33, has been terrific in the closer’s role this season for the Cubs. He owns a 1.59 ERA with a 25/9 K/BB ratio in 22 2/3 innings. He is also not available for the back end of Tuesday’s doubleheader, but it sounds like he won’t need to go on the disabled list.