PHILADELPHIA -- The Braves do not know what to expect from Luis Ayala. But before the July 31 Trade Deadline passes, they are going to give Ayala a chance to prove he is capable of serving as a reliable veteran presence in their bullpen.
Ayala gained a sense of relief on Thursday night when the Braves informed him he was being activated from a disabled list stint that began when he was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder in late April. The 38-year-old reliever said his problems were compounded by a bacterial infection that formed near his stomach and caused him to lose eight pounds.
"Finally I can say I'm healthy and get back to a routine where I can pitch every time," Ayala said. "It took a long time, but I was doing my best."
Ayala was back in Atlanta's bullpen on Friday night for the first time since he began battling anxiety after an April 24 appearance at Coors Field.
The Braves would like to add bullpen depth by acquiring at least one veteran before the end of the month. But there could be less urgency to add two relievers if Ayala pitches like he did while posting a 2.40 ERA in 118 combined appearances with the Yankees and Orioles the past two seasons.
Over the past two months, the Braves were concerned about Ayala's decreased arm strength. But the reliever's fastball improved as he was pitching for Triple-A Gwinnett the past two weeks.
Hudson gets extra day to rest neck, starts Saturday
PHILADELPHIA -- As Tim Hudson was being treated for a stiff neck earlier this week, the Braves determined it would be best to give him one additional day of rest leading into his next start. But the club waited as long as possible to announce this decision.
Hudson was scheduled to start Friday night's series opener against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. But approximately four hours before the start of the game, the Braves announced Paul Maholm would start in his place. Hudson will start Saturday night's game.
"I'm fine," Hudson said. "This time of year when you get an extra day, it's not a big deal. It can only be a good thing."
Because they did not play on Monday, the Braves were able to flip-flop these two veteran hurlers without altering the schedule for the other members of their rotation Maholm was on regular rest entering Friday's start. Hudson will now have two extra days of rest entering Saturday's outing .
"It was just an opportunity to get a couple extra days," Hudson said. "So you've got to take advantage of it when you can."
Hudson revealed that his neck has been bothering him for nearly six weeks. But he said he did not begin receiving treatment for the ailment until this week.
"It was one of those things where about six weeks ago, you wake up in the hotel room and your neck feels [bad]," Hudson said. "Over the past six weeks, it's been a pain in the butt, or the neck."
Hudson's frustration has grown as he has gone 0-6 with a 4.50 ERA in the 10 starts he has made since last earning a win on May 5. But his neck did not seemingly hinder him as he posted a 2.45 ERA and limited opponents to a .208 batting average in six June starts.
The veteran righty expressed his displeasure when he was pulled last Saturday after surrendering a game-tying home run to the D-backs' A.J. Pollock with two outs in the sixth inning. He felt he should have been given a chance to record the final out and remain in line for a potential win.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez said Hudson's comments after Saturday's outing did not influence the decision to push him back one day.
As a professional courtesy, the Braves informed the Phillies of their decision to flip-flop starters late Thursday night. But the official announcement was not made until late Friday afternoon.
• Evan Gattis has been permitted to increase his activity level the past two days, but it still appears he could be sidelined until after the All-Star break. After taking approximately 20 swings in the indoor batting cage at Turner Field on Thursday, Gattis was cleared to begin playing catch on Friday. The Braves are being careful with the rookie catcher, who has been sidelined since June 18 with a strained right oblique muscle.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.