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Kimbrel, Hudson escape tough jams in opener

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Craig Kimbrel and Tim Hudson might have shown a hint of rust during the 2-1 loss the Braves suffered to the Tigers in Friday's Grapefruit League opener at Champion Stadium. Or maybe they wanted to be reminded of what it felt like to pitch out of a jam.

Hudson cruised through a perfect seven-pitch first inning, and then began the second inning by walking Prince Fielder and hitting Victor Martinez with a two-strike fastball that simply did not cut enough. But the Braves veteran responded by inducing consecutive groundballs, including one that resulted in a double play.

"I felt all right," Hudson said. "It's always good to get the first one out of the way. I didn't blow anything out and I didn't limp off the mound. So that's always a good day."

Once Hudson completed his two-inning debut, Kimbrel experienced the oddity of entering the game in third inning. The Braves' dominant closer opened his one-inning appearance by missing the strike zone with eight of the first 12 pitches he threw. But after issuing consecutive walks, he went through the top of Detroit's lineup unscathed.

"It takes a while," Kimbrel said. "It's a long year. That's what Spring Training is for, to get down here and get in the swing of things. After you take a couple months off, it's pretty hard to pick it up right where you were."

Kimbrel was able to get his competitive juices flowing when reigning American League Most Valuable Player Miguel Cabrera came to the plate with two outs and two runners on base. He fell behind with a 3-1 count and then got Cabrera to ground a 96-mph fastball directly toward Andrelton Simmons, who threw to first to end the inning.

Kimbrel said the matchup might have been a preview of a matchup he could encounter if the United States and Venezuela meet during the World Baseball Classic.

"You always want to be in a good competitive situation," Kimbrel said. "I might be seeing him in a couple of weeks. It might be a different situation than it is now. But I was just happy to get through the inning and get my work in."