04/18/2013 7:39 PM ET
Fredi mixing and matching defenders vs. Bucs
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
PITTSBURGH -- Manager Fredi Gonzalez toyed with the idea of using Evan Gattis at first base on Thursday night while Gerald Laird handled his duties as Julio Teheran's primary catcher, but he instead opted to keep Gattis out of his starting lineup for the first time since April 6.
Gonzalez did not feel comfortable using Gattis as his first baseman in consecutive games, but he plans to give the rookie catcher his second career start at first base on Friday night, when Laird is scheduled to serve as the starting catcher in a second consecutive game for the first time this year.
Laird's opportunity to play on Friday night will come because of his previous success against the Pirates' scheduled starter, Wandy Rodriguez. Laird has four hits, including a double, in seven career at-bats against Rodriguez.
The Pirates started left-handers in the first two games of this four-game series, and Gonzalez did not want Juan Francisco's hot bat on the bench in two consecutive games. Thus he opted to give Francisco a chance to prove himself against a left-hander during Thursday's matchup against Jeff Locke, a former Braves prospect who was making his 13th career start.
Braves playing a waiting game with Avilan
PITTSBURGH -- Lefty reliever Luis Avilan experienced some trouble when he attempted to test his left hamstring by jogging early Thursday afternoon at PNC Park, but the Braves will attempt to wait at least three more days before deciding whether he will need to be placed on the 15-day disabled list.
"We're trying to hold on," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He's making a little bit of progress. [Head athletic trainer Jeff Porter] told me he went out there and really couldn't run. But obviously, we'll try to keep him progressing the best we can. If we get in a situation where we play 12 innings today and we need the extra arm tomorrow, we'll make the move."
Avilan seemed destined for the DL when he fell to the ground before throwing a pitch in the ninth inning of Tuesday night's win over the Royals, but his mobility has improved over the past two days, and the Braves are holding out hope that he is simply dealing with a slight strain and the effects of a bad hamstring cramp.
"I feel so much better," said Avilan, who has established himself as a reliable and versatile middle reliever while compiling a 2.01 ERA in 36 career appearances.
The Braves are willing to go through the four-game series against the Pirates with one less available arm in the relief corps, but Gonzalez said his bullpen will definitely not be short-handed when the Braves begin a three-game series against the Rockies at Coors Field on Monday.
Thus, if Avilan has not made adequate improvement by Sunday, the Braves will likely have to promote a pitcher from their Minor League system.
"It's one of those situations where we'll try to be as patient as we can as long as he is making progress and as long as we don't need him," Gonzalez said. "You don't want to put him on the DL for 15 [days] when he could come back in six or seven. But come Monday, if he's not progressing the way we want him to progress, we don't want to go into Colorado with 11 [pitchers]."
Hudson on the verge of notching 200th win
PITTSBURGH -- Thoughts of Tim Hudson becoming a big leaguer seemed farfetched when his only opportunity to play collegiately was with his hometown community college. But 20 years later, Hudson finds himself on the verge of becoming the 110th pitcher in Major League history to record 200 wins.
"I'm just thrilled to have had the opportunity to play as long as I have," Hudson said. "When I was in college, and even when I first started playing in the big leagues, 200 wins seemed like forever away. A lot of good things have to go right for you."
Hudson's first chance to notch No. 200 will come on Friday night, when he starts against the Pirates. Having grown up in Phenix City, Ala, approximately two hours south of Atlanta, the 37-year-old right-hander takes pride in the fact that he has notched 107 of his wins with the Braves.
"I feel great to have been here as long as I have and to be able to win as many games for the Braves as I have," he said. "I grew up a fan of Atlanta. I always wanted to play for Atlanta. I never thought it would be during the prime years of my career."
Hudson has gone 107-65 with a 3.51 ERA since the A's provided him a chance to fulfill his childhood dream by trading him to the Braves before the start of the 2005 season. He has notched 51 of those victories since returning from Tommy John surgery, a procedure he underwent in September 2010. The only pitchers to record more wins during this span are Justin Verlander, CC Sabathia, Gio Gonzalez and Roy Halladay.
"I feel like I go out there and give the team the best chance to win with whatever I have going that day," Hudson said. "Early on in my career, I was a certain genre of a pitcher. To stick around for 15-plus years, you have to re-invent yourself and tweak things along the way. If you don't, then you won't be around. I've been able to do that and not lose the ability to compete at a high level."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.