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02/19/12 4:27 PM EST

Hudson has sights set on May return to Braves

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.

While Hudson was telling friends that he did not believe he would be ready for the start of the season, the Braves initially said he could recover from the surgery and be ready for the start of Spring Training.

"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.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.