Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Daniel Hudson entered spring training this year hoping to better determine the limits of his right arm, which underwent back-to-back Tommy John surgeries in 2012 and 2013.
At best, the 28-year-old would land a spot in the starting rotation and be held to five innings per start. And naturally, that was the goal.
But Hudson was informed Monday that he didn’t crack D-backs manager Chip Hale’s starting rotation, which included five other right-handers.
“The decision was mutual,” the pitcher explained Monday at Salt River Fields. “It wasn’t just them telling me, ‘This is what we’re going to have you do.'”
Hudson, Hale and the D-backs coaching and training staffs were very vocal about their collaborative diagnostic efforts throughout the spring, saying they wanted what was in the best mutual interest of both the team and the pitcher.
Hudson entered three games in relief for the D-backs last September, allowing four earned runs in 2.2 innings pitched. But he didn’t pigeonhole himself into that role when he arrived at D-backs camp in February.
“This whole spring was just kind of seeing how everything would respond,” Hudson explained.
Earlier in the spring, he stated that his goal was to get back to being a starter by the 2016 season, which would put him in largely uncharted waters for a player with his health history. A Washington Post story published last week looked at the health of pitchers who had twice surgically-repaired ulnar collateral ligaments — the impetus for Tommy John.
When surgeons Robert Keller and Bill Moutzouros of Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit looked at 33 pitchers who had the surgery a second time, they found that only 65.5 percent were able to return to pro ball. The ones who did had shortened careers and threw fewer innings than 33 statistically matched pitchers who hadn’t had the surgery. Their performances, as measured by baseball’s copious statistics, were about the same.
With one Tommy John surgery, “there’s a good chance you’re coming back,” Keller said in an interview. “You’re probably not as good as you were before, but you’re near to where you should be.
“When you have a second one, you may not come back, and if you do, you won’t pitch as much and you won’t pitch as long.”
The D-backs seemed more than open-minded to the idea throughout the spring, but perhaps felt limited by the short starts Hudson would offer. Optimistic still, the pitcher didn’t rule out the possibility of making starts in 2015.
“If down the road someone goes down or we get some inconsistent guys in the rotation, if they need me to step in and take a start or two, then maybe I can do that,” he said.
“I’m just happy to pitch wherever.”
Hudson made three starts and four appearances in the Cactus League this spring, pitching to a 4.22 ERA over 10.2 innings. He struck out eight and walked four in those games.