Tim Hudson remained on track to rejoin Atlanta's rotation at the end of the month after pitching five strong innings in his penultimate Minor League rehab appearance.
The 36-year-old allowed one unearned run on two hits and three walks over five innings in the Triple-A Gwinnett Braves' 4-1 win over the Norfolk Tides. Hudson struck out four batters and threw 48 of 76 pitches for strikes.
"It was a step in the right direction," Hudson said. "I don't feel like I'm quite ready to go, but it was a positive step in the right direction.
"I feel good where I'm at physically. It's more about executing pitches and figuring out a better way to get big league hitters out."
Hudson, who is recovering from spine-fusion surgery in November, loaded the bases on Xavier Avery's triple and consecutive walks to Matt Antonelli and Ryan Adams in the first inning. But a 1-2-3 double play off the bat of Jamie Hoffmann and a lineout to right field helped the right-hander escape unharmed.
A veteran of 13 big league seasons between Oakland and Atlanta, Hudson was perfect over the next three frames, but the Tides got on the board in the fifth. Shortstop Josh Wilson's two-out error kept the inning alive, and Avery followed with an RBI single to left field.
Dusty Hughes struck out two batters in a scoreless inning of relief, Adam Russell worked around two hits and a pair of walks over 1 2/3 innings and Cory Gearrin recorded the final four outs.
Hudson has never lost a Triple-A game. Wednesday's win helped him improve to 6-0 lifetime at the Minor League's highest classification.
Hudson is expected to make a final rehab start with Gwinnett at home to Charlotte next week. If all goes well, he could return to the Braves for the end of a four-game homestand against the Pittsburgh Pirates at the end of the month.
In his previous two rehab starts with the Class A Rome Braves, Hudson was 0-2 with a 7.71 ERA. He allowed two runs -- one earned -- on four hits and a walk in his season debut in a 2-1 loss to Charleston on April 7, and he surrendered five runs on nine hits across four frames in a loss to the River Dogs five days later.
In his Major League career, Hudson has a 181-97 record and a 3.40 ERA. He is one strikeout shy of 1,700, which would rank 106th all-time.
On Wednesday, Braves first baseman Ernesto Mejia ripped a bases-clearing double in the first to stake Hudson to a 3-0 lead.
Norfolk's Avery finished 3-for-5 with an RBI in a losing cause.
Ashley Marshall is a contributor to MLB.com.