PHOENIX — Daniel Hudson did not know it at the time, but he may have been staring directly at his future in Atlanta last Tuesday.
Braves right-hander Tim Hudson, also on the mound that night, has won 41 games, made an All-Star team and finished fourth in NL Cy Young voting since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2008.
Daniel Hudson is expected to undergo a similar procedure after being diagnosed with a complete tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow in an MRI on Wednesday. He is to see elbow specialist Dr. Lewis Yocum on Friday, who could perform the surgery.
“You know it sucks,” Hudson said of hearing the initial diagnosis.
“It’s probably some of the worst news you can get. For someone to tell you it most likely is going to require surgery and you are going to miss 12 months of baseball; it’s not some easy news to take. It is what it is. I’ve had some time to reflect on it, and now it is time to get it taken care of and go from there and try to get back on the field as soon as possible.”
Many pitchers have had productive careers after the procedure, but Hudson is understandably anxious.
“Obviously the success rate kind of speaks for itself,” he said. “People on my end, we’re still keeping our fingers crossed. It’s not 100 percent success rate. I have to go out there and get my rehab done, and I have to make sure than I am doing what I need to do to get back on the field as soon as possible.”
St. Louis’ Chris Carpenter and Washington’s Stephen Strasburg have recovered well from the procedure, as did John, the pioneer and the pitcher for whom the ligament replacement procedure was named in 1974. John Smoltz recorded 154 saves after surgery in 2001.
Hudson was in the D-backs’ clubhouse April 21, watching as the Chicago White Sox’s Phil Humber pitched a perfect game seven years after his Tommy John surgery. Hudson was placed on the disabled list with a right shoulder impingement that day and missed the next 37 days, but he doesn’t see any connection to the elbow issue.
“I haven’t had any pain in my shoulder since I came back,” he said. “Whether something happened while I was rehabbing, or I was overcompensating for that, I can’t tell you that.”
Hudson, 25, said a certain amount of elbow pain has been a constant throughout his career, but it became more acute in Atlanta, when he could not get full extension on his arm to finish his pitches. Hudson left the game after calling for the coaching and medical staff to come to the mound while pitching to Brian McCann in the second inning of an 8-1 loss to the Braves.
“I’ve always had general soreness in my elbow when I pitch,” he said. “With my arm mechanics, it’s just the way I throw. Before this year, I’ve never felt anything in my shoulder. I never felt anything during a start or after a start. It was always in my elbow. That’s the way it was.”
He is referred to by scouts as a “slinger” for the way he whips his arm through his delivery.
“It wasn’t that I felt like I had something torn in it the start before,” Hudson said, referring to last week’s start against Seattle, when he gave up seven runs in four-plus innings.
“It was a little more sore than it usually is. If I would have felt like I couldn’t execute a pitch this start or the start before that, I would have taken myself out of that game. I didn’t feel l couldn’t execute a pitch against the Braves. It was just general soreness. At least that’s what I felt like.
“Obviously I was wrong. But I’m not a doctor. I can’t diagnose myself on the spot. If it felt normal, I was going to go out there and compete, and I was going to want the ball in my hands. When I took myself out of the game against the Braves, I couldn’t finish a pitch without a pain in my elbow, and that’s the first time I ever felt that.”
Hudson, one of the mainstays of the D-backs’ rotation, is expected to miss about 12 months with the surgery. He was 16-12 with a 3.49 ERA last season but only 3-2 with a 7.35 ERA in nine starts this year.
He was the key component on the D-backs’ side of the 2010 nonwaiver-trading-deadline deal that sent Edwin Jackson to the White Sox. The D-backs also received left-hander David Holmberg in the deal, and Holmberg already has been promoted from Class A Visalia to Class AA Mobile this season.