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Washington Nationals’ Daniel Hudson on ego-free bullpens and taking 2020 with a grain of salt...

Daniel Hudson talked to reporters for the first time this Spring after a frustrating 2020 season he’s taking with a grain of salt...

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Daniel Hudson signed a 2-year/$11M deal with Washington’s Nationals between the 2019-20 seasons, after helping the club win the first World Series by a D.C.-based team since 1924 in his first season with the club in 2019.

The first year of the 33-year-old, 11-year veteran’s two-year deal did not go well too well stat-wise, as Hudson put up a 6.10 ERA, a 6.29 FIP, 11 walks (4.79 BB/9), 28 strikeouts (12.19 K/9), and a .195/.319/.468 line against in 21 games and 20 2⁄3 IP, with 10 saves in 15 opportunities in the 60-game campaign, but his manager said late last season he saw good things from the reliever.

“If you look back,” Davey Martinez said, “... I know he’s disappointed because of the results, but I thought he threw the ball really well. I really did. And that’s encouraging.”

Hudson has struggled with injuries in his career, undergoing Tommy John surgery twice, and he persevered and was able to record the final out of the World Series in his 10th big league campaign, so as he said late last year and reiterated when he spoke with reporters on a Zoom call from West Palm Beach, FL on Monday, he doesn’t put much stock in what happened in the 60-game COVID campaign last summer.

“There’s positives and negatives to take out of every season,” Hudson explained. “Obviously last year being so different and difficult for all involved, you kind of take it with a grain of salt. At least I did. Sixty games is tough to kind of get a feel for how you did pitching, and I don’t know, I pitched like 20 games, so...

“It was a little bit difficult to sit down and really try to take value and take an assessment of it, but at the same time we got through it.

“I got through it healthy, relatively healthy, and had a normal offseason so like I said, just try to take the positives and the negatives and work it out and try to get better for this season.”

Like a lot of veterans around the league, Hudson struggled with the start-stop-and-start-up-again situation players found themselves in last season, so having a normal offseason to try to get back on track was exactly what he needed after spending a couple months throwing into a net in Arizona while he waited to hear if they were even going to play in 2020.

“There’s just no feedback obviously when you’re throwing into a net,” Hudson said. “I mean, I can feel the way the ball is coming out of my hand, but a lot of the visual stuff that you kind of count on, whether or not your ball is carrying or spinning right when you’re long-tossing, or seeing the flight of your slider when you’re throwing it, or even your changeup, it’s just there’s so much that comes with throwing outside and throwing to another person.

“Obviously ... last year I was throwing into a net a bunch during quarantine just trying to be safe and there was a couple of things when I got to Spring Training 2.0, that I really needed to work out when I got there, and those things got ironed out pretty quickly, but at the same time I feel like this normal offseason is going to be huge for my preparedness and how I’m getting ready for the season.”

While he isn’t putting much stock in what happened in 2020, he didn’t dismiss it, or ignore what went wrong for him, which he said was mostly a case of not being able to put hitters away when he got ahead in the count.

“I think it was just getting beat in pitcher’s counts, really,” he said. “I just didn’t put enough guys away. I struck some guys out, but it was just making mistakes with two outs and not being able to finish guys off with two strikes and I think that was the biggest takeaway that I took from last season was my effectiveness with two strikes wasn’t where I would like it to be.”

His velo was right around where it was in 2019, which it wasn’t for a lot of pitchers, and he said he felt like his command was there too.

“I felt like my command was good, but I did kind of struggle putting guys away and I think that kind of led to some of my walk issues as well. I would get ahead 0-2, 1-2, and my put-away pitches just weren’t where I wanted them to be and I would kind of let guys back in the count.

“I feel like if I can iron that out then I think that obviously that would be huge for me, but moving forward that’s something that’s going to be big for me.”

Hudson, who has in the past admitted that he doesn’t necessarily like closing, has to be happy about the depth the Nationals have assembled for Spring Training and 2021. Being part of an ego-and-defined-role-free bullpen is the way it is now the veteran reliever said.

There’s no egos,” in the Nationals’ bullpen Hudson said.

“I think just the way the modern bullpen has kind of started to take shape, there’s really not roles anymore. There’s guys that managers count on to pitch in certain situations and whatnot, but I feel like the more options that managers have to throw guys earlier in games than maybe they’re used to, or interchange guys in the eighth and ninth innings. Or use so-and-so pitcher because the matchups are good in the sixth inning, even though he typically pitches in the eighth or ninth. I mean, the more options the better, and I think that’s just the way the modern bullpen is just kind of moving.

“Roles kind of — they still do still exist, but at the same time I feel like we’re all just relievers now. There’s not really a closer, or eighth inning, or seventh inning guy it’s just, ‘Let’s just go get outs whenever we’re asked.’ Who cares about what inning it’s in?

“In my opinion, the fifth or sixth inning could be just as important as the ninth inning one night. It changes from night to night and for guys to be able to kind of accept that and not have egos about, ‘Oh, man, I’ve got to get the saves.’ Or, ‘I’ve got to get the holds.’

“I think that’s just the way it’s got to be from here on out and I think that’s really important to the formation of a cohesive bullpen.”