The cortisone shot he received in late May certainly helped, but Daniel Hudson needed a mental boost, rather than a medical one, to clear the final hurdle in his return from left knee surgery that ended his 2022 season last June.
“I think it just got to a point where I was like, ‘You know what? I’m ready. I’m done ticking the boxes here. “Let’s just get started,” said the Dodgers reserve, who was activated ahead of Friday night’s 9-3 win over the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. “I was just focused on that, and now I’m here and ready to go.”
Hudson, a 36-year-old right-hander who was the team’s top rescuer before tearing his anterior cruciate ligament a year ago this week, admitted there were times in recent months when he thought that day would never come come.
He hoped to be ready by Opening Day but suffered several setbacks in March and April as his bent knee buckled under the strain of throwing a hill and he was unable to begin a minor league rehabilitation assignment until June 6 .
“It’s been a frustrating couple of months, very frustrating,” Hudson said before the game. “I just want to play again, you know?”
Hudson finally got his chance Friday night, going into the eighth inning with a six-run lead, giving up an infield single and hitting two — Nick Pratto with a 96-mph fastball and Edward Olivares with an 86-mph slider — in a scoreless inning.
“Yeah, it felt good,” Hudson said afterwards. “I didn’t have a chance to check everything but the ball seemed to be coming out pretty well. I did some pretty defensive hacks on some fastballs and the slider was pretty sharp so overall pretty good.”
Mookie Betts hit solo homers in his first two at-bats in the 26th multi-homer game of his career, adding an RBI single in the fourth inning, an RBI double in the eighth inning and two walks for the 11th hit – Accelerate attack of the Dodgers.
Rookie right-hander Bobby Miller threw 5 2/3 solid innings, giving up three runs and five hits, knocking out four and walking one to secure the win. He bounced back from two brutal starts, earning 13 runs and hitting 17 in 92/3 innings against the San Francisco Giants and Houston Astros.
Hudson’s knee isn’t 100% – it probably never will be – and he knows he’ll have to deal with some aches and pains when shooting an important one in a skinny bullpen that started Friday with a 4.62 ERA wants to recapture the role. the fifth worst grade in baseball.
But Hudson showed during a rehab stint that saw him play in eight games — five in the Arizona Rookie League and three for Triple-A Oklahoma — in eight games — five in the Arizona Rookie League and three for Triple-A Oklahoma City – scoring four goals, catching 13 strikeouts and running one in 8 1/3 innings without a goal, means he’s strong enough to bolster a young and inexperienced auxiliary corps that desperately needs another backer.
“It’s just another adult in the stable,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “He’s been battle-hardened. He has a good heart rate. He brings out left-handers and right-handers. He enjoys the respect of everyone at the club and at the club. So certainly a great asset.”
Hudson is no stranger to adversity, lengthy layoffs and pressure. Returning from two surgeries at Tommy John, he built a solid 13-year career that culminated in 2019 when he completed games for the Champion Washington Nationals and threw the final pitch in the World Series Game 7 win over the Astros .
With a 2.22 ERA, five saves and a team-leading WHIP of .90 (walks plus hits per pitched innings), he went 2-3 in 25 games for the Dodgers last season.
Roberts said he will try to relieve Hudson again in lower-leverage situations like Friday night, which is fine with the reliever.
“I have [closed games] “I’ve had a lot of fun pitching in these kinds of situations and tight games over the past few years, so we’ll see how it goes,” Hudson said. “But from now on I’m ready to take the ball whenever he needs me to throw it.”
If Hudson can regain his 2022 form, he would give Roberts another attractive late-game option alongside Evan Phillips, Brusdar Graterol, Caleb Ferguson and Yency Almonte.
“That’s the hope,” Phillips said. “We expect he will be Daniel Hudson and I think he expects to be an important part of our bullpen. Having a character like him in any role will help us win games.
“Maybe we will ease certain situations for him here and there, but I think it will be very important for us to win back the competitor and win back his talent heading into the post-season.”
“He’s been battle-hardened. He has a good heart rate. He brings out left-handers and right-handers. He enjoys the respect of everyone at the club and at the club. So certainly a great asset.”
— Dodgers manager Dave Roberts on Daniel Hudson
Hudson is confident his side will play in the big leagues. His fastball ranged from 93 to 95 mph and he hit 96 mph during his rehab stint, “and I’m hoping we get a few more ticks of adrenaline on the bike,” he said. The speed and form of his 89-mile slider “is good, right where I want it to be,” he said.
Hudson also brings a veteran presence that the bullpen lacks with the departures of pitchers like David Price and Kenley Jansen.
“For the past few years, when we’ve had Huddy and people like him, there’s been a reassuring presence in the bullpen, ‘Hey, we’re going to get this under control,'” Phillips said. “They are sort of a role model for the younger guys.
“When a stable player like Huddy comes in and is a reassuring factor that we feel we can count on in any situation, that will help put other guys in their most advantageous places.”