03/15/2013 5:11 PM ET
Walden running out of time to prove readiness
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Manager Fredi Gonzalez has not ruled out the possibility of having Jordan Walden in his bullpen at the beginning of the season. But now that his back is feeling better, Walden will have less than two weeks to prove he is ready.
Walden will throw a batting-practice session on Saturday with the hope of being cleared to pitch in a game early next week. Last week's epidural injection provided some relief for the right-handed reliever, who has been sidelined the past three weeks because of a bulging disc.
"I'm rehabbing a lot, and I feel great," Walden said. "I'm ready to get back out there."
If all goes well on Saturday, Walden would likely be cleared to pitch in a game early next week, but Gonzalez said his reliever might need to throw two batting-practice sessions before being cleared.
"I've got my fingers crossed," Gonzalez said about Walden being ready to start the regular season. "Those relievers, you give them three, four or maybe five outings, and they're ready to go, depending on who they are."
If Walden is cleared to pitch early next week, he could make five appearances before the Braves open the season against the Phillies on April 1. If he is not ready, his roster spot would likely go to right-handed reliever Anthony Varvaro, who is out of Minor League options. Varvaro has allowed one hit and completed four scoreless innings since allowing five runs on seven hits in one inning on March 7.
Late arrival Constanza may not make roster
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Jose Constanza arrived in camp on Friday, exactly one month after the club staged its first full-squad workout. Because there are just two more weeks of Spring Training, there is reason to doubt the speedy outfielder's ability to gain an Opening Day roster spot.
"I can only control playing hard and doing well," Constanza said, with bullpen coach Eddie Perez interpreting. "I can't control the other stuff."
Delayed by the stricter policies put in place this year, Constanza last week finally received his visa, and this week was permitted to leave his native Dominican Republic. Through Perez, he explained that his name was one of the last ones on the list of Dominican players who requested visas.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez would not rule out the possibility of Constanza winning the battle with Jordan Schafer to begin the season as the fifth outfielder, but the current favorite is Schafer, who is out of Minor League options.
Because Constanza has options, the Braves could send him to Triple-A Gwinnett without him having to pass through waivers. Schafer would likely be claimed by an outfield-hungry team, such as the Mets.
"We know [Constanza]," Gonzalez said. "It's not like we've never seen him or laid eyes on him. We know him and know what he can do. We'll get him some at-bats. I don't think he's ready to play nine innings out of the chute. I think the history helps him."
Constanza has batted .281 with a .332 on-base percentage in 79 games with the Braves over the past two seasons. Although he is considered to be a more consistent hitter than Schafer, he is the lesser defensive option.
After playing in the Dominican Winter League and the Caribbean World Series, which concluded in early February, Constanza spent the past month working with a personal trainer and personal coach in Santo Domingo.
Hudson acknowledges he has work to do
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- When Tim Hudson exited his start against the Tigers on Feb. 27, he was confident that he would have plenty of time to build necessary arm strength. But with two weeks left until the regular season, the veteran is growing a little more concerned.
"My pitches aren't the quality that I need them to be," Hudson said. "For me, the arm strength is not there yet. I'm 87 to 89 [mph]. That's not very good for me. Hopefully, that will get better. If not, then 'uncle.' I've just got to keep working hard, staying in the weight room, trying to get a little stronger."
Hudson spent some extra time conditioning after he limited the Mets to two runs and five hits in a season-high six innings during Friday's 5-2 loss at Champion Stadium. The 37-year-old right-hander was much more consistent than he had been in his previous few outings, but he exited knowing he has some work to do before April 1.
According to FanGraphs, the average velocity of Hudson's four-seam fastball last year was 89 mph. Now one year older, he is finding it a little more difficult to generate the velocity and the arm strength necessary to make his other pitches more effective.
"The more your body gets in shape and your legs get in shape and you get a little stronger, the more consistent you're going to be," he said. "I can throw 89, 90 pretty consistently, but it's max effort. I need to get that little extra where I'm pitching at 89, 90 and not throwing at 89, 90."
Both of the runs and three of the hits Hudson surrendered on Friday came during the second inning. Lucas Duda began the inning with one of the three home runs Hudson has allowed in 20 innings this spring. That matches the total he surrendered in the 113 1/3 innings he threw in exhibition games from 2006-12.
Hudson has allowed at least two runs in four of the five starts that followed his scoreless debut on Feb. 22. He will attempt to complete seven innings during his next start and then likely pitch three or four innings during his final start before the regular season.
"My delivery is getting more consistent," he said. "I think [by throwing] a couple more times on the side, I can clean that up a little bit. It's heading in the right direction. It's just taking a little longer than I would like. We'll get there."
• Freddie Freeman and Juan Francisco both hit towering home runs off Mets right-hander Jeremy Hefner during Friday's 5-2 loss. Francisco's cleared the tall yellow wall that sits 40 feet beyond the right-field wall.
• Eric O'Flaherty pitched around a walk and a single while completing a scoreless inning on Friday. This was the second appearance for O'Flaherty, who strained his left groin during the early days of camp.
• B.J. Upton went 2-for-3 with a double on Friday to improve his batting average to .444. He has recorded at least two hits in four of his past five games.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.