Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo acquired Daniel Hudson from the Toronto Blue Jays last July, and after the 33-year-old reliever posted a 1.44 ERA, a 3.53 FIP, four walks, 23 Ks, and a .200/.237/.356 line against in 24 games and 25 innings pitched during the 2019 regular season, and recorded the final out of the World Series, Rizzo and Co. in the front office in D.C. signed the righty to a new 2-year/$11M free agent deal this past winter.
“Hudson is a guy that we threw in the fire early, often, daily, once we got him,” Rizzo said in January 2020, “... and his makeup passed the test for us. We want that type of player in the clubhouse, so we made it a point to get him back, because we needed his presence back, and we wanted to upgrade ourselves at the back end of the bullpen.”
Hudson, after bouncing around, in his words, for the last couple years, was excited about the bullpen mix he would be a part of in D.C., and the stability a two-year deal provided at this point in his career, as well as what it represented, when he spoke about coming back.
“To be able to have that security was definitely a huge selling point for me,” Hudson said.
“Them being willing to listen and being open to giving me two years — I know that my age and my injury history isn’t on my side, but for them to kind of take care of me and my family was definitely a huge factor in me wanting to come back here.”
The injury history he mentioned includes two Tommy John surgeries in quick succession in 2012-13, which cost him significant time in his mid-20s.
Hudson went into some serious depth discussing his surgically repaired elbow in a recent virtual roundtable on SiriusXM MLB Network Radio, describing how he was initially injured and what it’s like to be a two-time TJS pitcher.
“I was coming off my first full season in the big leagues in 2011,” Hudson explained.
“I threw like 220 innings,” he said, [222 IP actually], “had a pretty good season, we made the playoffs that year, so going into 2012 there was a lot of excitement, everybody’s looking forward to hopefully winning the [NL] West again, and, you know, I started feeling a little something in actually my shoulder at first, and it was after a start — probably my second or third start of 2012, and just had a little tightness like in the deltoid area, my shoulder — after my third start. Ended up having to go on the DL for that, and I got a cortisone shot and kind of cleaned everything up for a little while, and then I think I was probably out for like a month with that and we ended up — after I came off the DL I did a couple rehab starts and then came back and my first start back, kind of felt a little bit of stiffness in the forearm, and of course first start back after it was — so I’m like kind of panicking a little bit, I think I threw like five innings and did somewhat decent in that game, but then it just kind of gradually got worse and worse in my forearm and tricep/elbow area.
“I was going in for extra treatment, trainers and all kind of knew what was going on, and I wasn’t actually being completely honest about how bad it was actually hurting. I had some bad games mixed in with a good game here or there, so in the back of my mind I’m still trying to kind of maybe push it off like, ‘It’s not that bad. I’ll just keep getting treatment and I’ll be good to go.’”
That’s never a good idea, of course, which he acknowledged in hindsight, and it wasn’t all that long before he’d torn his ulnar collateral ligament again.
“And then I remember I think it was the middle of June 2012,” Hudson continued. “We were in Atlanta and I just had this start where I literally couldn’t — you know that feeling you just can’t — every time you really get extended on a heater or something like that, just this shooting pain up my whole arm almost all the way up into my shoulder, and so obviously being cognizant of that, I’m not exactly getting extended on anything, and just can’t finish any pitch. I’m letting a lot of fastballs go high and inside to righties and just yanking sliders and changeups into the dirt and finally I’m just tired of being all over the place, I finally call the trainer out and come out of the game in Atlanta, fly back to Arizona and get an MRI and sure enough it’s torn.”
At that point, he went under the knife for the first time.
“Tommy John surgery a couple weeks later. Fast forward a year: I’m in my first official rehab start in Double-A, coming off — I’m probably supposed to go about 70 pitches. I had thrown in the Instructional League 4-5 innings here and there, and so I go to Double-A, first inning goes fine, go back out for the second, it’s a little tight, don’t really think anything of it, and then like three pitches in I think I threw a slider and just felt it go again, and ended up finishing the inning but my fastball velocity was like 84-85 when the inning before that I was sitting like 94, and yeah, sure enough fly all the way back to Arizona the next day, MRI — I asked the doctor if I needed to come back to the doctor’s office and see him, and he said, ‘No, I’ll just see you at the field later tonight,’ I was planning on going to the game, and like an hour later I’m getting a call from him and I just knew it was bad news. And sure enough, torn again, so, yeah it was a little bit frustrating for me for that matter, obviously, but fast forward six years and knock on wood, still relatively healthy.”
There are, however, some lingering effects, Hudson said, explaining that his slider isn’t quite as consistent as it once was before the surgeries.
“I still have issues with my slider,” Hudson said, though he did get the final out of the World Series with the pitch, and he did hold opposing hitters to a .182 average on the pitch in the regular season last year.
“I’ll literally go a week as a reliever, have like four games in a week where my slider is the nastiest pitch I’ve ever thrown,” Hudson said, “and then literally I’ll take a day off and then the next day it’s gone. So I feel like I still have issues with that thing.”