Daniel Hudson has the third-most appearances out of the Washington Nationals’ bullpen so far in 2021 (23), and the third-most innings pitched (24 1⁄3). He’s also been dominant, with a 2.59 ERA, a 2.74 FIP, 2.59 BB/9, and 12.59 K/9, with a fastball that has played up this season (95.2 MPH), and a slider that’s returned to form (.174 BAA against after hitters put up a .294 AVG on the pitch last year).
So, yes, manager Davey Martinez has been leaning on the 34-year-old reliever, and yes, the 12-year veteran acknowledged after he landed on the 10-Day IL on Saturday, (retroactive to June 10th), there are times that he’s taken the ball when he maybe hasn’t felt his best, but it is part of being a big league reliever, and until this week, he hadn’t experienced ill effects of doing so this season.
“Yeah, obviously there are days when maybe you’re not feeling 100%, but for me, everything that I do in-between, I do just to make sure that I’m available every day. It’s just part of being in a big league bullpen,” Hudson explained on a Zoom call with reporters on Saturday.
“There’s going to be stretches of time when it feels like you’re throwing every day,” he said, “or warming up every day, and then there’s also times where you don’t touch the mound for a week. It’s just part of it, and I kind of pride myself on — especially the last couple years — just being available.”
It’s not an ego thing, at least not for Hudson, who explained that as a veteran member of the relief corps, some of the decisions he makes affect his fellow relievers.
“There’s a thing with being a veteran in the bullpen, where there’s days when you’re not feeling good, but guess what, you’re good enough to pitch,” Hudson said, “... and there might be a young guy who doesn’t feel like he can stand up and say, ‘Hey, I need a day,’ because of the volatility in the bullpen when the roster situations with guys in the bullpen can be so fluid.
“If there is a day where a young guy says, ‘Hey, I can’t go, I need a day or two,’ and maybe with the way the modern bullpen is run, maybe he gets sent down.
“It’s just a part of being a veteran I think if Davey feels like or if I feel like I can pitch, and Davey knows that I’m there, maybe he stays away from one of those young guys because I’m available, and I kind of pride myself on that and I want to be available every single night, especially how I was throwing the baseball, because it’s helping us win games.
“But at the same time, there is a little bit of times where you need to be smart, like I said, I hadn’t had any issues going up to this, I felt great, felt good, normal, on Wednesday, it’s just that I woke up Thursday morning and didn’t feel so good, so here we are and hopefully we just get through it and put it behind us.”
“He has right elbow inflammation,” Martinez said in a separate Zoom call Saturday afternoon in the nation’s capital.
“He had an MRI yesterday,” the Nationals’ manager continued, “... and he’s just got some inflammation in there, so knowing his history we wanted to give him some time off, and hopefully that inflammation goes down and he’ll be right back to help us pitch.”
Hudson’s history includes two Tommy John surgeries in quick succession in 2012-13, which cost him significant time between 2012-14, including the entire 2013 campaign. So when it comes to his elbow, there was some concern before the X-ray and MRI, though Hudson did not think it was anything that serious.
“Obviously with my injury history there was some cause for concern for me, you know in the back of my mind,” Hudson said.
“But we got an MRI just to be safe, and there were no structural issues or anything like that, just some inflammation and some fluid in the triceps area.
“Just some — obviously your body being protective of part of the body that’s not feeling great.
“It is what it is, and like I said, I don’t have any concerns long-term. I think it’s just a short-term thing and hopefully we can get that out of there, and go from there.
“Nothing structural, just kind of did it as a precaution to make sure, and once we got the MRI results back, everything seemed to be on track with that.”
“He felt some discomfort, and he had an X-ray, came back clean,” Martinez said.
“MRI showed just inflammation in his right elbow, and it’s actually in the back of his elbow.
“But because of his history we want to be very careful, so we decided to put him on the IL today.”
Martinez too was asked if thought Hudson’s heavy early-season workload played a role in the elbow issue.
“Yeah, we had to use him, obviously we use [Brad] Hand, but typical Huddy, he felt like in a few days he’d be fine, but we’ve got to be smart. And we talked to him and we told him that we feel we still got a long way to go, that this will be the right thing to do, and we’ll get that inflammation out of there and then we’ll see where we’re at in a few days and get him back and get him in that bullpen again, but I can’t say enough about what Huddy has done since he’s been here, since we traded for him.
“Obviously, as you guys know, he was a big part of why we were so successful in ‘19, and he’s been that guy.
“He’s been that guy for us. He’s had an incredible season so far this year, so we want to make sure that he’s good and healthy when he comes back and he’ll help us out again.”