LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Nearly three months after being forced to undergo a back surgery he had long attempted to avoid, Braves pitcher Tim Hudson has reported to Spring Training feeling a sense of relief that had not been present for much of the past decade.
"I definitely feel like I'm getting around a lot better," Hudson said. "I felt like Fred Sanford for two or three years walking around the locker room."
Hudson will likely miss at least the first month of this season as he continues to recover from a Nov. 28 surgical procedure that fused the L5/S1 disk in his back. Atlanta neurosurgeon Dr. Stevan Wray went through the 36-year-old hurler's stomach to insert a sponge filled with bone-producing proteins.
Hudson's back feels much stronger as he finds himself now able to do some of the simple things that previously pained him, like putting on his shoes. But his abdominal region is still weak and he understands the importance of showing patience as he attempts to rebuild those muscles.
"From a strength standpoint, I'm not quite where I want to be, but I usually get that back pretty quick," Hudson said.
"Me getting back for the start of the season was never really a possibility, just from a timeline standpoint," Hudson said. "The kind of surgery I had is a three-to-sixth-month deal. Five months puts me at May 1."
Hudson might have been ready for the start of this season had he undergone the surgical procedure immediately after last season. But after using anti-inflammatory medication to pitch through pain the past two years, he entered the offseason hopeful that he could avoid the surgery for at least one more year.
"Now that I have had it and I feel really good about it, I feel like I can play a really long time," Hudson said.
Hudson's absence from the starting rotation could open a spot for Julio Teheran or Randall Delgado. The versatile Kris Medlen could also land the role if these two highly-regarded prospects struggle during Spring Training.
Heyward working hard to change bad habits
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- After his teammates took swings and played catch at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex Sunday morning, Jason Heyward stayed on the main field alone to run sprints and complete his conditioning drills.
"I'm feeling great," Heyward said. "I'm working pretty hard. My confidence is there and I'm healthy. This is probably the best I've felt in a long time."
Heyward entered this winter determined to avoid the frustration he felt as he hit .227 with 14 homers and a .389 slugging percentage during the 2011 season. The 22-year-old Braves outfielder began a conditioning program and improved his diet. He stayed away from steak throughout the offseason and cured his Chick-fil-A addiction by sticking with grilled chicken sandwiches.
Heyward lost nearly 20 pounds about a month into this program and has kept his weight around 235 pounds over the past three months.
Along with gaining a leaner frame, Heyward spent the past month attempting to kill some of the bad habits created as he battled shoulder discomfort last year. Braves hitting coach Greg Walker has preached efficiency with the swing and the young outfielder seems to have gained some immediate comfort with the changes.
"There's less effort for me to do what I want to do," Heyward said. "As far as the ball jumping off the bat, I know that's been there and it's good to see there again. It feels free and easy. It doesn't feel like my body is in the way. I'm able to stay behind the ball."
Moylan won't rush back from shoulder surgery
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Peter Moylan remains thankful that the Braves brought him back this year with a Minor League contract. But the veteran reliever does not know exactly when his surgically repaired right shoulder will allow him to rejoin the Atlanta bullpen.
Moylan was cleared to throw from a distance of 90 feet Saturday and returned to ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex on Sunday without any concerning discomfort. The 33-year-old sidearm hurler is anxious to pitch as soon as possible. But he knows there is not a reason to place a timetable on his return.
"You don't know how it's going to respond at all of these levels [of throwing]," Moylan said. "If it feels good all the way through, who knows when I'm going to be ready. But there is no real 'this is the day we want you back.' That's good. There's no pressure. I'm not going to want to rush it."
Moylan missed most of last year after undergoing back surgery to repair a herniated disc. He returned in September and made just six appearances before feeling the discomfort that led to shoulder surgery.
Former Braves manager Bobby Cox was present for Sunday morning's organizational meeting and spent the afternoon participating in a golf outing with members of the Major League and Minor League coaching staffs. Braves pitchers and catchers will hold their first workout at 10 a.m. ET on Monday. The Braves have positioned Tyler Pastornicky's locker next to Jack Wilson's. Wilson will serve as a backup and mentor to Pastornicky this year.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.