Hudson shines in spot start
PHOENIX — Starting brought back a lot of good memories for Daniel Hudson on Sunday. It gave the Diamondbacks something to think about, too.
Hudson made his first start in almost three years in the Diamondbacks’ 2-1 victory over San Diego, an appearance necessitated when rainouts on Monday and Tuesday in Colorado jammed up the rotation.
While Hudson was not in there long enough — nor was he expected to be — to get the victory, he showed glimpses of the pitcher who won 16 games to help the D-backs to the 2011 NL West pennant before Tommy John surgeries got in the way.
"I don’t think I’ll ever get to the point where I don’t keep it in the back of my mind that the last time I did this, it was bad," Hudson said. "Trying to block that out and mentally prepare myself for getting a bunch of guys out."
This was good.
Hudson pounded the strike zone during a 56-pitch outing, even integrating a third pitch, his slider, to keep the Padres from doing much damage. He gave up two hits and two walks and struck out five in 3 1/3 innings before another man new to his role, newcomer J.C. Ramirez, got out of a bases-loaded situation in the fourth inning en route to his first major league victory.
"It was cool," Hudson said of his first start since June 26, 2012. "I haven’t done it in a long time. To get the adrenaline going before a big league baseball game is pretty special. I didn’t know what to expect, really. Just trying to keep my emotions in check early on and throw strikes and try to set the tone from the beginning. You try to figure out things as you go, really. I hadn’t done it in three years, really."
Home runs by Aaron Hill in the second inning and A.J. Pollock in the third gave Hudson, Ramirez and the three relievers that followed all the cushion they needed on what was a bullpen day.
"We wouldn’t have been able to do it without Huddy," said closer Addison Reed, who pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his second save. "I have no idea what he wants to do in the future, but he looked natural out there in the starting routine. He did exactly what everybody knew he could do."
Hudson said since spring training he wants to return to the rotation at some point in his career. At the same time, a relief role could suit him, too, especially with the D-backs’ starting depth in the minor leagues. John Smoltz and Dennis Eckersley made the bullpen conversion, Smoltz after an elbow injury, so there is precedent. It is a decision the D-backs will keep on the back burner for now.
"We’ve tried to stay not too far out in the future," manager Chip Hale said. "Let’s keep him healthy. An inning here, two innings. He could be a starter next year, he could be a setup man, he could be a closer. As long as he’s healthy and he feels strong going into next season, we can decide on that, with his input, of course."
Hudson called his Sunday start a step in the right direction, regardless.
"I’ve always said I want to get back there (rotation) eventually. Whether or not that’s good or bad for my arm, I have no clue," he said. "I’ll just take this as a positive and go from there. If they need me to go again like that later on in the season, I’ll be on top of that list."
Hudson’s fastball stayed at 96 mph most of the way, and he threw first-pitch strikes to seven of the first 10 Padres’ hitters while facing one batter over the minimum threw three innings. He used his breaking ball more than he had during his nine relief appearances this season as a way to keep hitters off balance. He struck out former teammate Justin Upton on a fastball in the second inning after getting him to swing through a 2-1 slider.
"I probably mixed in a few more breaking balls to the right-handers this time, just because it hasn’t been great out of the bullpen and I’m trying not to get beat with it," Hudson said. "It felt pretty good with it in the bullpen warming up. For the most part, I was going after them with fastballs. Luckily I was able to throw it (slider) a couple of times. I think that was able to keep them off my other stuff."
Pollock made another nice base running play in the sixth inning, when he went from first to third on Mark Trumbo’s single to left-center field. Pollock got a good read on the play right in front of him and breezed into third base.
1 — victory the D-backs have this season when scoring fewer than four runs.
* J.C. Ramirez had never pitched as long as 2 2/3 innings in his short major league career, and he had never thrown more than 17 pitches at Reno this season. But if that’s what it took to get his first major league victory. "I will be sore tomorrow, I guess," said Ramirez, who threw 39 pitches. "But tonight I feel really good, happy to get the win." Ramirez, who made 11 scoreless appearances in Reno, found out Saturday night he would join the D-backs and arrived in Phoenix around 9 a.m. Sunday. He gave up a run but got out of two bases loaded jams. "It was special because last year I didn’t play in the bigs, so it was a big time for me to come back to the bigs," he said. "It was a little bit of pressure on me because of the situation, but I just stayed focused." Ramirez made 18 appearances with the Phillies in 2013.
* Aaron Hill has 12 hits and all three of his homers in his past 26 at-bats after going 1-for-3 with a solo homer. Hill, who has started about half the season at second base or third, raised his batting average 112 percentage points to .268 in that stretch. "You’re feeling good, you’re getting out there and getting some swings," Hill said. "You just try to stay relaxed and get your work in." He had four hits including a homer and four RBI in 13-7 victory over Colorado in the first game of a doubleheader Wednesday.
* David Hernandez recovered well from his extended spring training appearance Saturday and after one more extended appearance could be sent to High-A Visalia this weekend. "It’s the best my arm has felt since I can remember since surgery," Hernandez said. He took a week off after feeling soreness in his scapula following his previous outing, but said it had nothing to with his surgically repaired elbow." At the soonest, he could return for the Chicago Cubs’ series here May 22-24. "The good thing my elbow in this whole process has never been sore, knock on wood. It’s never been achy."
Addison Reed finally was called on to get another save, and he responded with a 1-2-3 inning. He has converted two of his three chances this season, as the D-backs found themselves either ahead by a lot or down when the ninth innings has rolled around. "It’s one of those things, you can’t ever control it," Reed said. "If it happens it happens, if it doesn’t it doesn’t. I’m getting regular work. They’ve been doing a good job of getting me out there even if it isn’t a save opportunity."