Tim Hudson aiming to return from back surgery by May 1

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Tim Hudson is recovered enough from November back surgery that he could be cleared to throw off a mound later this week and the veteran right-hander told David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution that his targeted return date is May 1 “at the latest.”

O’Brien describes Hudson as “upbeat and optimistic,” but any plans for his return to the rotation are a little premature until he begins throwing again at full speed and starts building back his arm strength. Barring a setback he’ll likely spend most of April pitching in the minors.

Hudson will make $9 million in the final season of a three-year, $28 million deal that includes a $9 million option or $1 million buyout for 2013. At age 36 getting healthy is vital to Hudson’s career, but last season he was the Braves’ best starter and one of the best right-handers in the league with a 3.22 ERA and 158/56 K/BB ratio in 215 innings.