A season-ending injury to Tim Hudson could have crippled the Atlanta Braves’ starting rotation, but the addition of Brandon Beachy may help soften the blow.
Beachy returns to make his first start in more than a year as Atlanta hosts the Colorado Rockies on Monday night.
The Braves (60-45) hold an 8 1/2-game lead on Washington as they seek their first NL East title since 2005. Hudson, though, suffered a broken right ankle while covering first base in Wednesday’s 8-2 win over the New York Mets and will be recovering for the next four months after surgery.
Hudson had won four straight outings, but his spot in the rotation will be filled by Beachy, who had an NL-leading 2.00 ERA when he injured his elbow June 16, 2012, in a loss to Baltimore.
After having Tommy John surgery, Beachy went through a grueling rehab process before being cleared to start Monday. Manager Fredi Gonzalez said Beachy will be limited to about 100 pitches.
“(It’s) like getting a big piece in a trade at the deadline. Before he got hurt he was one of the most dominant pitchers in the National League,” Gonzalez said. ”I don’t think he’ll be that his first time out, but I think he’ll be close.”
The right-hander said he’s ready to go.
”I feel good now and I’ve felt good ever since that point I was shut down,” Beachy said. “I’m going to go out there and take the ball and keep it until they take it away from me.”
Gonzalez, though, said no one person can replace Hudson.
”Nobody needs to be Huddy,” Gonzalez said. ”Nobody needs to be the ace or that kind of label. Believe me, I’m going to fight that the next two months when we’re pitching well. Collectively, I think, as a unit you circle the wagons, you go out there and you get those three performances that we had (recently).”
Colorado starter Jorge De La Rosa is proof that a successful return from Tommy John surgery is possible after he had the procedure done in 2011 before missing most of the 2012 season.
De La Rosa (10-5, 2.97 ERA) has been stellar this year and is 3-1 with a 1.96 ERA over his last seven starts after pitching six scoreless innings in Wednesday’s 2-1 win over Miami. He said a sore left thumb hasn’t been a factor.
“I’ve been pitching with that for a while,” De La Rosa said.
The left-hander hasn’t faced the Braves since giving up two runs in seven innings of a 5-2 victory Aug. 24, 2010. He’ll look to help the Rockies get their 10-game road trip started on a positive note after a 6-5 win over Milwaukee on Sunday.
Michael Cuddyer and Troy Tulowitzki hit two of the four homers for Colorado (51-55), which went 5-5 on its homestand. A mediocre trip may damage its chances to catch the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West, though.
”We know we’re a talented team. We know we can compete with anyone in the league,” Cuddyer said. ”We’ve just got to be consistent. Hopefully (Sunday) was a stepping stone for that.”
Colorado, though, has dropped 14 of the last 18 meetings with Atlanta, which completed a three-game sweep of NL-best St. Louis with Sunday’s 5-2 victory. Jason Heyward homered and drove in two runs batting leadoff for the second straight game, while Chris Johnson had three hits and scored three times.
The Braves have won eight of the last nine home matchups with the Rockies.