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02/03/09 3:41 PM EST

Hudson has proper attitude in rehab

If all goes to plan, righty hopes to return to Braves in August

ATLANTA -- When Dr. James Andrews gave Tim Hudson the clearance to begin a throwing program in early December, the Braves right-hander returned to his suburban Atlanta home and told his wife, Kim, to grab a glove.

While throwing for the first time since undergoing Tommy John elbow ligament transplant surgery in August, Hudson's concerns didn't include injuring his wife.

"I'll be honest with you, her first few throws had a little more zip than mine did," Hudson said. "I was testing the waters at first. I was making sure [my elbow] didn't pop out of my skin the first couple of throws. Then I was able to throw it in there a little better.

"The first few throws were, uh ... exciting. It was like, 'Am I going to throw it 10 feet or 50 feet? Where is it going to go?'"

Two months into his throwing program, Hudson has become more confident about his surgically repaired right elbow and his chances of being able to to rejoin Atlanta's rotation some time in August. But at the same time, he's well aware of the determined patience that he'll need to display while pacing his rehab efforts over the next few months.

"They say it's a year-long process," Hudson said. "That's the program that you follow. From what I understand, people who stray away from the process, they've had issues. I want to avoid that.

"Opening Day is in the middle of the season for me. It's not like I can put the gas pedal to the floor right now. It's one of those things where I've got to go by the program and do everything by the book."

This week, Hudson began enhancing the effort he puts into his throws. Just to give himself a chance to throw on a downward plane on Wednesday or Friday, the 33-year-old right-hander may stand on the mound while throwing from a distance of 60 feet.

"I just don't want to have any problems," Hudson said. "I'm not 25 [years old] anymore. I want to make sure I'm doing things right, and then hopefully at the end of July or the beginning of August, I'm ready to go."

While he obviously won't be throwing batting practice or pitching in games, Hudson plans to go to Spring Training to do everything else he would have normally done under normal circumstances. Shortly after the regular season begins, he hopes to begin throwing regular bullpen sessions.

"I'm starting to feel like a baseball player again," Hudson said.

Until he is cleared to begin making rehab starts, Hudson plans to be with his teammates on a regular everyday basis. In the process, he hopes to display some of the veteran leadership skills that he admittedly was hesitant to display while John Smoltz stood as the club's longest-tenured player.

During the early days of Spring Training, Hudson, Chipper Jones, who now stands as the club's longest-tenured player, and Brian McCann plan to let some of the younger players know that some of the lackadaisical attitudes that have been displayed over the past few years won't be tolerated.

This will be Hudson's fifth season with the Braves, and as long as his elbow cooperates, Atlanta is expected to exercise his $12 million option for the 2010 season.

"If I'm healthy, I hope they like what they see enough to pick up the option," Hudson said. "If not, I'm still young. If everything goes right with this elbow, I see myself pitching another seven or eight years. I've got a new elbow. I'm ready to go."

Unfortunately for Hudson, it will likely be at least another six months before he's truly ready to go back to the mound for the Braves But as long as everything goes according to plan, it appears like he should endure the final months of this long rehab process with the confidence that he'll be back in Atlanta for the 2010 season.

"There's no other place I'd rather be, that's for sure," Hudson said.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.