Ian Kennedy might have been the face of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ rotation during the team’s magical ride to a National League West title in 2011, but Daniel Hudson was just as responsible for the staff’s remarkable season.
Just 24 years of age at the time, Hudson served as Arizona’s bonafide No. 2 starter and a bulldog to boot, winning 16 games to go along with an impressive 3.49 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 169 strikeouts.
But since his breakout season, Hudson has been limited to just total nine appearances.
On June 26, 2012, Hudson tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow during an 8-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves and was forced to undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery.
He has not pitched in a Major League game since.
While pitching in his first rehabilitation start last June, the Norfolk, Va. native re-tore his UCL in the second inning of the contest.
At the time, the former fifth-round pick contemplated retirement.
“I’d say for a good couple hours after I found out the news, I was fifty-fifty [on returning], just because I didn’t know mentally if I could do it again,” Hudson said. “Just 12 months of watching baseball and not doing anything. It was a tough few hours for us.
“But people have it way worse than I do, so I figured if I didn’t get it done, if I didn’t try at least, I couldn’t look myself in the mirror in five years.”
Hudson did give it a try and went under the knife for a second Tommy John surgery in mid-June.
It was a try, though, that almost didn’t come in a D-backs’ uniform. After failing to come to terms on a new contract, the organization opted to non-tender Hudson, making him an unrestricted free agent.
However after 10 days on the market, Hudson signed a minor league deal to come back to Arizona.
Now back with the D-backs, the question has shifted to when will he pitch again?
“I’ve been throwing,” Hudson told Burns and Gambo during the D-backs’ Fan Fest Saturday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. Hopefully, I’ll be able to go off a mound by the end of next month and take it from there. There’s really no timetable at this point. I just want to get back and healthy, and we’ll see how that goes.
“I hope I can [pitch at some point this year]. I don’t see why not. Once you get to this point, it’s more of a see how you feel every single day and go from there. That kind of dictates the timetable from there.”
Hudson will not be the first pitcher to try and come back from multiple Tommy John surgeries, as they likes of Al Reyes, Brian Wilson, Darren Dreifort and Doug Brocail have done so previously.
With that said, the D-backs right-hander said he hasn’t really done much research on prior cases. His sole concern right now is writing his own chapter in the history book of recoveries.
“Everybody says it’s slower coming back the second time, but I don’t see it that way, because most guys that have their second Tommy John Surgery have five, six or eight years between the two,” said Hudson. “That’s five, six, eight more years of wear and tear on your arm. Hopefully, this is kind of a redo, and I can put everything behind me and have a healthy career after this.
“I definitely want to just go out there and do my thing and not worry about what anyone else has done that’s been done before.”
If Hudson does find his way back on a big league mound either in 2014 and 2015, the 26-year-old admits that the role will be of little concern to him.
“I don’t want to close any books on anything. I would honestly prefer to start. It’s what I’ve done my whole career. I haven’t come out of the bullpen, except for a few weeks went I first got called up. So, it would be nice to starter.
But, I really just want to pitch at this point. I don’t care what capacity it is in, whether it’s as a mop-up guy or pitching in the eighth or ninth inning. I really don’t care. I just want to pitch again.”