Daniel Hudson is used to adversity, having gone through two Tommy John surgeries, and then carving out 10 more seasons as an effective relief pitcher. The man knows perseverance.
But 2023 provided yet another test for the veteran right-hander, whose triumphant return from another injury was interrupted yet again.
Hudson hadn’t pitched since June 2022, and missed just over a year with a torn ACL in his left knee. His scoreless eighth inning in Kansas City on June 30, in which he allowed a single and struck out two batters, was his first major league game in 371 days.
He pitched two more games in the next week once the Dodgers were home, another scoreless eighth inning on July 3 against the Pirates, and then another two days later. He got a save in that July 5 game, his first in 13 months.
Game stories that night included references to Hudson tearing up after the game, which was understandable given he just missed a year and was finally back pitching at a high level. As Fabian Ardaya described it that night at The Athletic:
“Kind of like how I remembered it,” Hudson said, eyes reddening as he choked up. “It’s a pretty special feeling walking through those gates.”
I did not cover that series but was at Dodger Stadium the next night, and in an incredible moment of inadvertent mistiming, I saw Hudson in the clubhouse and congratulated him on his return. He politely thanked me, and we went our separate ways. About 20 minutes later, we found out there was another reason Hudson was so emotional the night before.
He sprained the MCL in one of his final pitches of that save, this time in his left knee. He knew it pretty much immediately, and definitely so after the game. Hudson’s guttural scream upon securing the final out took on a whole new meaning.
“He gutted it out,” manager Dave Roberts said the day after. “I don’t know how he made those last two pitches.”
Hudson did not pitch in a game the rest of the season, not with the Dodgers nor on a rehab assignment in the minors. He was around during prep for the National League Division Series and was at least nominally in the mix for potential roster inclusion had the Dodgers advanced, but that was quickly made moot.
Stats: 3 games, 0.00 ERA, 5 K, 3 BB, 1 save
Salary: $6.5 million
Game of the year
Hudson’s last game of the year, on July 5, was a painful one, and it was by no means a clean outing. But it was definitely his most memorable appearance.
Up 6-4 in the ninth inning, Hudson allowed a ground-rule double to Connor Joe, then walked both Andrew McCutchen and Bryan Reynolds to load the bases with nobody out. But then Hudson struck out Henry Davis looking and got Carlos Santana to fly out on the first pitch, gaining some breathing room.
In another long battle, this time with Jack Suwinski, Hudson ran the count full for the third time in the inning, but got him swinging on a slider to end the game. After his 29th pitch of the frame, Hudson roared in celebration, and likely relief.
The Dodgers on November 5 declined Hudson’s 2024 club option that was worth $6.5 million. He is a free agent.