The day after becoming the third active pitcher with 200 wins, Tim Hudson needed no better reminder of how hard it is to get there than the ESPN broadcaster standing in a suit on the field during batting practice Wednesday — his former Oakland A’s teammate Mark Mulder.
Mulder was three shy of 100 wins at age 27 in 2005, but within three years he was out of the game with a shoulder injury. Barry Zito, the other stud in the West Coast version of the “Big Three,” had some rough years in San Francisco, and is looking at an outside shot at 200 with 163 wins at age 35.
“I feel very lucky and blessed to be in a position to do it,” said Hudson, who joined Andy Pettitte (248) and Roy Halladay (201) in the 200 club. “Mark was better. He was the best pitcher I’d seen. I still say he’s one of the best I’ve seen. His career got cut short by an arm injury, or he could be well past 200 by now if he’d have stayed healthy.”
Mulder watched the end of the game Tuesday at an Atlanta steakhouse shortly after his plane landed. He was one of “just about everybody I know” to leave Hudson messages, and he talked to him on the phone Wednesday morning.
“It was pretty cool to see,” Mulder said. “… This isn’t happening very often anymore. There are so many injuries pitchers are having that are derailing guys. Teams are so much more careful with young pitchers now they’re not getting as many decisions.”
Mulder said Hudson looks largely the same to him as he did in Oakland, just without as many split-finger pitches and not quite as much on his fastball.
“Everything still looks the same with the exception of the velocity being down a couple mph, but that’s going to happen,” Mulder said. “That’s natural.”
What was unnatural about Tuesday night was watching Hudson hit a home run the night he won his 200th game. The only other pitcher to have homered the night he won his 200th (or 300th, or 400th for that matter) of the 110 who’ve done it was Cleveland’s Bob Lemon in 1956, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Hudson had to sign a bat and several other items to get the home run ball back from the fan in right field who caught it. He’ll have fun showing it to his 8-year-old son, Kade, who went to bed after watching the game on TV in Auburn, Ala., on Tuesday night, but was a happy kid seeing his father Wednesday morning.
“He’s fired up about me hitting,” Hudson said. “He doesn’t think I can hit. I still don’t know if he thinks I can hit. We’ll be out in the backyard playing ball, and he’ll go ‘I’m going to hit like you, Dad.’ He’ll act like he’s going to hit and then he’ll just bunt. He said ‘All you ever do is bunt.’ I was like wait a minute. You’ve got to look at my scrapbook, kid.”
Schafer taking advantage: Jordan Schafer is making the most of his playing time while Jason Heyward is on the disabled list recovering from an appendectomy.
Schafer was the catalyst in Monday’s win over the Nationals, reaching base four times from the leadoff spot, and was hitting .346 overall when he got back in the starting lineup Wednesday in right field.
Schafer said he’s learned after wasting an everyday chance last year in Houston. The Astros waived him after he hit .211 in 106 games.
“It’s about time I take advantage of an opportunity,” Schafer said. “I’m just going out there and having fun and let the game come to me.”
That’s showing in his approach as well. Schafer walked three times Monday to give him a .485 on-base percentage.
“Sometimes when I was younger in certain situations I tried to force stuff to happen,” Schafer said. “’I have to take the walk or bunt the guy over and let the guys behind me do their job.”
Schafer, 26, is frank about his desire to become an everyday player again, but said he’s “extremely” happy being back with the Braves.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez doesn’t have a lot of wiggle room with an outfield of Justin Upton, B.J. Upton and Heyward.
“I like him as a part-time player, give somebody a day off here and there,” Gonzalez said. “He may be the best defender (among outfielders) we have, him and Jason.”
Medlen tinkers: Kris Medlen hopes an adjustment he made in the bullpen will help his command when he takes the mound Thursday night against the Nationals. Medlen has struggled to hit the inside corner against left-handed hitters, and away to righties, consistently and it’s cost him.
He gave up a season-high five runs on 10 hits in a loss to the Tigers his previous start. He’s an uncharacteristic 1-3 in five starts, despite a 3.26 ERA.
Medlen said pitching coach Roger McDowell pinpointed the problem during a bullpen session Tuesday. He was landing so that his legs were firing in the wrong direction on pitches to that part of the plate. He said McDowell stood a few yards away, giving him a reference point, and then ducked out of the way as Medlen released the pitch.
One time was all Medlen said he needed to get the feel back.
“The first one I threw when he did that was right where I wanted it, just like last year,” Medlen said. “Felt good. Effortless. Next pitch I told him to get out of the way. Did it once, next two, same exact thing. I was like I’m done. Just lock it in.”