HUDSON: I've always wondered if I'd have the opportunity to wear the Braves uniform growing up pulling for the Braves, watching Smoltz and Glavine and Maddux all those years. It was always exciting. This is a dream come true for me and my family. I know my wife Kim is really excited. There were obviously a lot of emotions in the last day. This is the first time we've ever had to deal with something like this, so there are obviously a lot of sadness involved. But on the other hand there's also a lot of excitement. We're excited to get things going with a new organization. I'm excited to meet my new teammates and getting to know these guys. Hopefully, I can fit in and help this team win and keep the winning tradition going. That's for sure.
(Schuerholz and Cox stand with Hudson as he tries on his new Atlanta Braves uniform.)
SCHUERHOLZ: The tie even works with that outfit…looks pretty good to me.
COX: Tim Congratulations.
SCHUERHOLZ: Welcome aboard man.
HUDSON: Thank you. It's great to be aboard.
(Reporters ask questions)
REPORTER: Tim do you remember how you were in 1991 when the Braves started winning?
HUDSON: Yea I remember I was about a freshman in high school in Phenix City at Glenwood High School. It was amazing. That was when Atlanta started their big run and started having their great teams. I just remember sitting at home and watching the team with Ron Gant and Dave Justice and the great pitching staff that Atlanta's always had. It was always a lot of fun. I remember being in my living room doing the Tomahawk Chop. I was doing it right along with them. It was always exciting. It was always a dream of mine to play in the big leagues. Obviously in the perfect world would be playing in Atlanta, just up the road from my family. Now obviously there's an opportunity for all my family and friends to be able to come up and watch me play and watch me pitch whenever they want. It's exciting. It's definitely exciting for us. We couldn't be happier to be apart of this organization.
REPORTER: Do you feel the Braves will be able to re-sign you?
HUDSON: Right now everything is kind of in a whirlwind for me. This is a pretty big thing going on with me and my family. This is a place where we're definitely comfortable. There's no question about that. When that time comes to talk about something like that it's something that we're definitely going to be happy to talk to them about and just go from there. But right now I'm really just concerned with meeting my new teammates and getting to know everybody around here and just trying to fit in and get ready to pitch and win some ballgames for these guys.
HUDSON: I'm ready to do whatever it takes to come to this organization and fit in and do whatever it takes to be one of the guys. I want to come in and feel right at home. Everything's been so great so far. I've had a chance to meet Bobby and talk with John today. Everybody's been so great to us so far and we look for it to continue to be a lot better.
HUDSON: Players don't like getting traded, especially where it's from an organization where you grew up in the organization and you had so many friends. We had such great times in Oakland. It's always an emotional time. You hate to see it end. But I said if there was one team that I got traded to that could make the transition as easy as possible, it's definitely Atlanta. It hasn't been easy, but it's been easier I probably expected to be. But at the same time yesterday was really an emotional day for me and Kim. It was kind of tough just thinking about all the guys in Oakland and all the fans. That's tough. I said I wasn't going to get emotional up here. It's kind of tough, but at the same time everybody understands it's the nature of the business. Fortunately, Oakland was able to do something that was best for both organizations, for the Oakland A's and for Atlanta. I'm pulling for those guys, except for when they play us come this year. And I'm glad to be apart of the Braves right now.
REPORTER: Can you talk about living in Alabama?
HUDSON: Actually, I'm from a small town called Salem, Alabama. You've probably never heard of it. It's in between Smiths and Auburn. It's a really small town. Actually, we have a residence in Auburn. My parents live in Auburn right now. Most of my family still lives in Smiths, like my brothers. But for Kim and I we both make our offseason home right now is in Tampa.
REPORTER: Do you think Auburn (football) is getting the shaft by the BCS?
HUDSON: Without a doubt I think they should definitely be playing for the whole thing. No question about it.
REPORTER: Do you think there will be an adjustment to the National League?
HUDSON: It's obviously a different game in the National League. The only chance we get to play this style of play is when we're playing Interleague when I was in Oakland. Me personally, I love the National League game. I like the fact that you're not going to be facing a designated hitter four times in a game. I think it's the real game of baseball. I'm not a great hitter, but I'm going to like swinging the bat a little bit and playing the small ball side of baseball. It's going to be a lot of fun. It's going to take some time to getting used to it. I know it's a totally different league. I know I'm going to have to get to know all the hitters. From a scouting report side, it's going to be real challenging getting to know all the new guys in this league. I'm excited about it. I can't wait to get going and start learning and learning from one of the best pitching coaches in the game.
REPORTER: Can you talk about stepping into this run of success the Braves have had?
HUDSON: It's been amazing. It's been amazing. You know we had a lot of success in Oakland the last four years. We've only won two divisions in four years. To win the division this many times in a row is unbelievable. It's amazing. It goes to show what kind of front office guys this organization has and the great coaching staff. The scouts are going to go out and be committed to winning. They're going to do whatever it takes to keep that winning tradition going. I'm glad I'm apart of it. I'm glad I'm apart of it because it's going to be a lot of fun having a lot of success with this organization and my new teammates. It's going to be a lot of fun.
REPORTER: (for Bobby Cox) Bobby how would you rate this starting pitching staff?
COX: It's an outstanding staff. We've had some great pitching staffs all these years or we wouldn't have won that many divisional titles. That's for sure. We've had good pitching. That's been our history here in Atlanta to have good pitching. Once again we're going to have great pitching. I know Smoltzie is awfully excited to be in the same rotation as Tim here. And the other guys, last year I thought at times we had four number ones in our rotation when they got hot with Russ and Hampton and Jason Thomson and Jaret Wright. That was a good rotation. This rotation has got a chance to be better I think.
REPORTER: Bobby how long did the discussions go on with you and Oakland?
COX: Well John Schuerholz can tell you how long it's been going on. It was well before the winter meetings ever took place and yes I was excited. A pitcher of Tim's caliber…I know (Pedro) Martinez was the top dog out there maybe this winter meetings as a free agent. And if Tim's name was out there as a free agent, it would have been headlines every single day and the other guys wouldn't have gotten as much play – that's for sure. That's how much Tim's respected throughout baseball, not only in the American League but throughout the National League. We have scouts too that watch people pitch. I've seen Tim pitch a lot of on television, and I've never seen him pitch poorly. That says it all for me. Of course, he's got one of the best track records that a pitcher could ever have at his age. In fact, it's unsurpassed I think. We've got a good one. We hope that we're going to be able hang on to Tim as long as we possibly can and see what happens. We're awfully happy and if it's for only one year, it's for one year. But it would be better certainly if it's for five more.
REPORTER: (To Hudson) Is that weird to hear Bobby Cox say those things about you?
HUDSON: It's very weird to hear. I mean I grew up idolizing those guys. When I was out in Oakland there were a lot of comparisons with myself and Mulder and Zito with the Atlanta staffs. You know I was blown away just knowing how I was being compared to those guys. I know how good they were, especially living around here. It's an honor for me just to be on the same pitching staff as him (John Smoltz). From what I hear he's a great guy. I love watching him pitch. He's a stud out there. So I can learn a lot from him and I'm sure I will.
REPORTER: Do you play golf?
HUDSON: I play golf. I'm just good enough that I won't totally embarrass myself. I play with somebody who knows what they're doing.
REPORTER: Can you talk about your mental approach to pitching?
HUDSON: Well most of it is upstairs for me. We have our scouting reports. Once I face a lot of guys over and over again, I have a pretty good idea of what I want to do with them. I spend a lot of time in the video room, watching video, especially watching video of myself against teams. Obviously I don't have a history at all hardly against National League hitters, so it's going to be challenging at first. I'm excited to get things going and learn as much as I can as quickly as I can.
REPORTER: What is your pitching philosophy?
HUDSON: Keep the ball down. Try to make it pound it to the ground and let the guys behind me make the plays and try to make them look as good as I can.
REPORTER: How ready do you feel that Mark (Mulder) or Barry (Zito) or even Rich (Harden) is to kind of step up and be that number one guy that they felt you were?
HUDSON: I think Barry and Mark…you never knew really who was the leader of the pitching staff just because those guys were on in day they could be just as good as anybody in the league. They're still going to have a great pitching staff over there. Rich Harden is going to come in and fill my spot with ease. He's a great young pitcher. All three of those guys are studs. You can't say one is better than the other. I don't think they're ever going to say one of them is better than the other. They're just going to go out and feed off of each other just like we did when I was there. When one has a lot of success, the others just want to go out there and try to match it. I think that's a big reason that as a staff we had so much success as we did. We just fed off of each other and never thought one was better than the other. I think that's a big key to any pitching staff.
REPORTER: Tim how disappointed are you that you got out of Oakland and you guys were never really able to the hump and advance in the postseason?
HUDSON: The hard part is getting there and once you're there anything can happen. A lot of times what teams are hot and what teams are playing the best baseball at that time can be the best. Unfortunately, we came up short in Oakland in the first round every time we made it. I don't think it's because we didn't have the talent or didn't have the heart to go out there and win. I just think we ran into some teams that were playing a little better baseball at that time than we were. That's probably about what it boils down to.
REPORTER: (To John Schuerholz) What are you going to do about the outfield?
SCHUERHOLZ: We are going to have an outfield. We intend to have an actual left fielder and right fielder playing next to Andruw. We just don't know who that will be at the moment. We have some young guys, Ryan Langerhans and Billy McCarthy in our organization. Of course, Jeff Francoeur, who played in our minor league system and is from Atlanta, is not on our roster but is invited to the major league camp. I'm sure that Jeff is going to come loaded for bear to take advantage of this opportunity. And we've got plenty of time to fill those roster spots. We've got some flexibility too, as a result of some of the things we've done. Either in the short term or by the time we are flying out of Orlando getting ready for the start of the season, we believe confidently that we will have a very fine outfield. We just don't know at the moment who it will be. It could be some young guys and it might be some veteran guys who don't get tendered a contract. Teams may come to spring training structured in one fashion and find out that they need to get a shortstop or they need a third baseman or they need another pitcher or catcher and have an abundance of outfielders and one of those guys may become available. So we feel very confident that by the time this season starts we'll have a very fine outfield.
REPORTER: How close is Francoeur?
SCHUERHOLZ: Jeff's a young guy. He played mostly in A ball last year and finished up in AA. He suffered the facial injury after being hit by a pitch. But he came back, even after having lost a lot of weight and a lot of strength, but came back and played well. But he's a great athlete. We think a lot of his future. We don't know exactly when that future is going to hit the major leagues, but when it does we're real excited about that possibility – whether it's spring training or later in this coming season or beyond that. Who knows? He's going to be in our spring training camp as one of the many we'll be looking at as a possibility as an outfielder.
REPORTER: Are you looking at any other pitchers?
SCHUERHOLZ: Any other pitchers in terms of….
REPORTER: Kevin Brown?
SCHUERHOLZ: Oh I don't know. He belongs to the Yankees. I don't know if they intend to trade him or what. But we're very satisfied with our starting staff. As I count them there are five guys lined up who are in pretty good shape. That's about all Bobby usually has on his starting staff.
HUDSON: People in the Bay Area bring it up every now and then. I really try not to get caught up in all that stuff. I try to take one start at a time and just go out and try to win every time I go out and pitch. If I don't win, I just try to give the team a chance to win. I feel like if I prepare at the level I want to and just work hard and try to learn every time I'm out there, the wins are going to come for the team.
REPORTER: How is your hip?
HUDSON: The hip is fine. Unfortunately last year I had a little strain in my oblique. I had to miss some time to get it back to 100%. Everything right now feels great. I've been tweaking my workouts a little bit in the offseason to try to remedy that a little bit. I've been seeing a physical therapist three times a week to try to get everything so it don't happen again. Everything feels great right now. Physically, I feel like I'm ready. I feel better than I ever have.
REPORTER: Was it in your hip area?
HUDSON: It is the same general area. Last year it was actually a mild strain at the end of the season. That was the first time it had happened during the season, so we kind of wanted to shut it down and make sure it was 100%. Once I came back, it was 100% and it felt great.
REPORTER: Do you understand the tradition and honor of being a Braves pitcher?
HUDSON: Without a doubt. Without a doubt. I know that this has always been a special place. Even though I've just been a fan, just seeing the pitching staffs and how much success comes along with it. I just hope I can come in and fit in right away and do whatever I can to help the guys win, to just pull my part. I don't want to let them down. I'm going to go out there and give them all I can and try to get better and learn as much as I can. I just want to hopefully be another good Braves pitcher.
REPORTER: Do you think you'll be excited for Spring Training?
HUDSON: I think from now until Spring Training I'm going to be very anxious to get out there and get going, especially just to be able to meet the guys and get to know them. The camaraderie you have in baseball is a special thing. The chemistry that you can develop with your teammates is the intangible that is going to help you win. On the locker room and on the field, it's something that people don't always see, but you can definitely feel it on the team. Once I'm able to do that and get to know all the guys and see how things are done around here, it's going to be exciting.
REPORTER: Are you looking forward to hitting?
HUDSON: Yea I am. I'm ready to sign a bat deal with somebody. Us American League pitchers get three bats for Interleague, and we probably break all of those in batting practice before the games even start. Some of the guys like Chavy (Eric Chavez) are great. He gives us bats and batting gloves and stuff. It's a lot of fun. Us American League pitchers we didn't get to hit that often, so when we did we took it very seriously, even though we were terrible. It was a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to being able to get to bat and start swinging a little bit. I'm about five years removed from Auburn, where I swung the bat there. I'm hoping I'm not too rusty. I'm hoping I can lay down a bunt.
Bill Shanks can be reached at email@example.com
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