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Atlanta Braves: Was Tim Hudson Pushed Back in an Attempt to Duck Cliff Lee?

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COMMENTARY | The Atlanta Braves' Tim Hudson was pushed back one day in the rotation as the club elected to start Paul Maholm in Game 1 of their three-game road series with the Philadelphia Phillies. The Braves have said it was merely done in an effort to give the 14-year veteran an extra day of rest, but, considering the All-Star break is just right around the corner; could there have been ulterior motives behind their decision to "rest" Hudson?

Fredi Gonzalez's see ball, hit ball, monochromatic method of managing is not usually in danger of being accused of innovation by anyone, but fans have to wonder whether his handling of Hudson was not done in an effort to jump-start his struggling right-hander.

Hudson has not won a game since May 5, and has gone 0-6 over his last 10 starts. But his growing frustrations have not been because he has pitched poorly - Hudson actually has a 2.45 ERA in the month of June - it is because he has been a tough-luck loser in a number of games this season. Last month alone, Hudson lost three games in which he surrendered three runs or less. The crowning jewel of his short-stick selections came on June 6 when he surrendered just one run to the Los Angeles Dodgers, only to get saddled with another loss after the bullpen imploded and the Braves lost 5-0.

Had Hudson started on Friday, as originally scheduled, he would have squared off against the Phillies' ace Cliff Lee, who happened to be 9-2 with a 2.73 ERA entering their would-be battle. By pushing Hudson back, he will get a much more favorable pitching match-up against Kyle Kendrick, who is making his first start after suffering a concussion on a ball hit by Dodgers' starting pitcher Stephen Fife. Kendrick has a 3.59 ERA in 17 starts this season. In 2012, he was 1-0 with a 4.00 ERA in four appearances against the Braves.

Call it ducking a former Cy Young Award winner if you want, but I would call it just plain genius. Hudson pitching Saturday means he will also miss the rest of the road trip before getting to throw in Game 1 of their final home series before the All-Star break. As the schedule is configured, this also means Hudson would not have to pitch again until July 20. If everything works out, Hudson could notch a win against weaker opposing pitchers, get a much needed ego boast going into baseball's summer vacation, and be reinvigorated for a strong second-half of the season. Given the fact that the Braves ended up losing 5-4 on Friday, Hudson could have been looking at consecutive loss No. 7. Instead, he gets a much rosier pitching match-up to try to break out of his current funk.

Conspiracy theorists, who also happen to be fans of the Braves, could point to the fact that Hudson already had one extra day of rest due to Atlanta's off day on Monday. He will now be going into his next start on two days of extra rest. The Braves would have you believe that the they were giving him time to rest his sore neck, but, since Hudson was quoted as saying, "I'm fine," that rational may be a little hard to swallow. Whatever the actual reason, this ploy just might work.

Perhaps Gonzalez would also like to try a little Mr. Miyagi-style wax on, wax off with B.J. Upton's .172 average, or even try to teach him a little something from the Obi-Wan Kenobi School of reverse psychology: "These are not the strikeouts you're looking for."

Of course, I could be way off base and it is just a happy coincidence everything worked out the way it did. However, I prefer to think this was Gonzalez's plan all along. It would be nice to know he at least has access to a bag of tricks, no matter how rare it is that he actually chooses to dip into it.

Anthony Schreiber is a freelance sportswriter. He has penned articles for a variety of online publications and magazines.

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