“If I throw it I’ve probably got to go pick it up myself, right?” Daniel Hudson asked a reporter who wondered if the reliever would be allowed to throw his glove like he did after recording the third out of the 2019 World Series last October in the new world we find ourselves in as baseball prepares to try to return during a pandemic.
Hudson was joking of course, but there are definitely adjustments that the veteran reliever and everyone in baseball will have to get used to when/if baseball starts up later this month.
“Another thing that was weird in the intrasquad the other day,” Hudson said, “... if you have more than two guys touch a baseball you’ve got to throw it out.
“There’s no throwing it around. I threw the pitch, [Yan] Gomes popped up to right, and then I turned around and grabbed a ball from somebody else. I don’t know what they did with it.”
“It’s just part of getting used to it,” the 33-year-old, 10-year veteran told reporters Monday in a Zoom call.
“You watch it come in and you get it from the third baseman. That’s just how it is. So it’s just going to take a little time to get used to that, getting the ball from the umpire instead of the third baseman.”
Hudson gave this all serious thought before he decided to participate in the 60-game 2020 season MLB is attempting to pull off this summer. He’s leaving his family behind back home in Arizona while he’s in the nation’s capital, though he said it won’t be all that much different from the way they usually handle things.
“It’s tough, but it’s just part of it,” Hudson explained.
“It’s probably more difficult on my wife than anybody, having three kids under six by herself, but she was willing to make the sacrifice, and I felt like I needed to be here with the guys to to try to get this thing going.
“It’s nothing we haven’t been through before. I was without them for multiple months at a time last year, coming from Toronto and they were back in Arizona. Public schools open in July in Arizona, so where we live anyways, so I didn’t see them except for about a week for Labor Day last year anyway, and then they came obviously for the World Series.
“But that was about the only time I saw them all last summer, so it’s nothing we haven’t been through before. It’s just part of the job, and like I said, I feel like it’s harder on the spouses than anything, and they deserve all the credit.
“Not us, we just go play baseball and they keep the fort, they hold the fort down and they are rock stars, in my eyes anyway.”
Hudson posted a 1.44 ERA, a 3.53 FIP, four walks, and 23 Ks in 24 games and 25 innings on the mound for the Nationals after he was acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays, and he put up a 3.72 ERA, a 4.04 FIP, four walks, and 10 Ks over 9 2⁄3 IP in the postseason last summer.
It was a big, big turnaround for a reliever who was released by the Los Angeles Angels at the start of the 2019 campaign.
Going into 2020, with a new two-year deal, Hudson said he does feel he has something to prove.
“It’s always something that’s on my mind. I’ve always wanted to prove that I can be here for the long run and repeat what I did last year that would be amazing. Statistically I’m not one to jump out of the gates firing.
“In my career, I’ve always for whatever reason haven’t pitched very well in Spring Training and Aprils.
“I don’t know if the layoff is going to help me or hurt me, but physically, I’m ready to go, and I can’t really do anything else but pitch really, that’s it.
“I’m going to go out there whenever [manager] Davey [Martinez] needs me to. And try to get three, four, five, six outs, however many he needs me to get. And that’s really all I can do.”
Hudson and the rest of the pitchers in camp for Spring Training 2.0 aren’t being given that much time to ramp up for the season, but he said he did think he’d be able to get in game-shape in time for the opener later this month.
“In my situation I feel like I can be ready for the regular season,” Hudson explained.
“There’s obviously, I’m a reliever, I don’t need too many outings. I don’t need 3-4 up/downs to get ready for it, like the starters. I feel like those guys have a more difficult time probably getting ready. I just need a few outings off the mound, throw to some hitters a few times, and I should be good to go. Now, I can’t tell you how effective I’m going to be, because of this whole thing, but physically and everything I feel fine. I feel good. I feel ready to go, just give me a few more outings facing some hitters and I should be fine.”
“Should be fine” and ready to face Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge are different things of course.
“I made that joke,” Hudson said. “I couldn’t remember the last time I had thrown a breaking ball to a hitter, and then two weeks I have to maybe face Aaron Judge in the eighth inning with the lead. So, let’s go get them and then go from there. Everybody is going to have to do it, so it’s not just me.”
It’s going to be tough for everyone to not only be ready, but be sharp since there isn’t much room for error in a 60-game campaign. Another 19-31 start, and the Nationals will be in a bit of trouble. Hudson and his teammates were there at the end this past season, and all of the players on the roster know it takes a lot to outlast the other 29 teams.
But what will it mean for the club that wins it all in a 60-game season? What about stats? Cy Young awards, batting titles? Will a World Series win feel the same as it does at the end of a 162-game? Hudson’s not sure.
“I mean, yeah, obviously it’s not going to feel the same I don’t think,” Hudson acknowledged last night.
“Even if we don’t win it, whoever does win it, I’ve thought about that a lot. Like how are we supposed to feel about that? It’s only 60 games. We’re playing 100 games less than we normally do. Everybody can say how many times, ‘What was the Nationals’ record through 60 games last year?’ They were weren’t even close to the playoffs.
“What does 60 games prove? I don’t know. Can you really figure out who’s the best baseball team in the league from 60 games? Probably not. But, I think it’s going to be competitive.
“And in the end that’s what we want to do. We want to go out and play and be competitive against each other. That’s what we’ve done for our whole lives.
“If it’s only for 60 games and that’s it, then whoever is left standing there at the end you can probably ask them about it then. But I can’t tell you how is whoever is there at the end going to think about it. If they’re going to think it’s legit, I don’t know. But if we’re standing at the end then I’ll probably be just as happy as I was last year when we were the last standing.
“It is what is, man, we’re going to go out there and compete and have fun under the new protocols, and do what we can to get through it together.”