DENVER -- John Hudek's reaction to being traded to the Braves was evident in his wide smile Saturday morning.
"I'm thrilled to death," he said. "Me and the wife, there had been rumors years before that I was going to come here and now that it's come true, we're just thrilled."
Hudek's career has been a series of disappointments and comebacks, starting with a 16-save season with the Astros in 1994 to surgery to remove his first rib in July 1996. Then came broken ribs, followed by a trade to the Mets, then another deal that sent him to the Reds last July.
"If I could ever design (my career) on a roller coaster, it would probably be pretty nasty," he said.
The right-hander was 4-2 with a 2.43 ERA in 30 games with the Reds last season, then was ineffective in his first two appearances this year. Perhaps that's what prompted Reds general manager Jim Bowden to dismiss Hudek's inclusion in the trade that sent Mark Wohlers to Cincinnati, a slap that angered the reliever.
Said Bowden, "I call this an `AON' deal, -- all or nothing. Mark Wohlers has a tremendous upside. He's possibly one of the most dominant closers of the 90s. And if we can't get him over this Steve Blass disease, we haven't lost anything."
Hudek responded by saying, "That's Bowden for you. Bowden is the type of guy, the way he (manages)is a different style than anyone I've seen in baseball. Bowden can say what he wants to. I'm more professional."
Hudek's career has been marked by wildness, particularly last season when he issued a career-high 47 walks in 64 innings. But he also struck out 68 and overall he has 108 walks and 186 strikeouts in 180 innings.
"Yeah, I had a lot more walks last year than I had in the past, but it was one of those years where the walks really didn't affect me," he said. "I gamble when I walk people and you can't do it."
Hudek, who features a fastball, slider and changeup, had not thrown in a week when he worked out with pitching coach Leo Mazzone in the bullpen before Saturday afternoon's game. He says he's healthy and eager to pitch, but he'll work in a long relief role with the Braves and it will be difficult to find him enough innings to stay sharp.
"They explained the guys that are going to get the ball the majority of the time right now and I understand that," Hudek said. "They have to see what they have. I proved last year that I can pitch in any role."
REMLINGER READY: After testing his pulled back muscle Friday and feeling no pain, reliever Mike Remlinger is expected to be activated from the disabled list today. If he rejoins the bullpen, rookie left-hander Derrin Ebert is expected to return to Class AAA Richmond.
CHILL GAME: Three hours before the start of Saturday's game crews were still removing snow from the outfield using a snowplow and mini dump truck. The temperature at the start was 43 degree with wind blowing at eight m.p.h., which was enough to cause everyone's hands to chill quickly.
"It's such a game of feel, it makes it tougher depending on what position you play," shortstop Walt Weiss said. "When your hands are cold you really can't feel the ball. I use five fingers (to grip the ball) and get it over there."
The cold also affected Otis Nixon's legs.
"I don't like cold weather like this from a running standpoint," he said. "I double up on all my socks, longjohns and I've even put two pair of gloves on before. usually you like to be loose when you run. When it's cold, you're restricted a little bit more. That's why they never do track meets in cold weather."
STANDBY DUTY: Ryan Klesko said his strained hamstring had improved enough Saturday to allow him to pinch hit, but there's no chance manager Bobby Cox will use him in this weather. The first baseman said he's been unable to stretch the hamstring for the past two days, but he was able to stretch it Saturday.
"Certain activities don't hurt at all and certain things I can't do," Klesko said.
Bill Zack, who covers the Braves for The Augusta Chronicle, is based in Atlanta and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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