LOS ANGELES — The adrenaline had worn off so much that Daniel Hudson had a hitch in his gait, but the feelings were still raw. Just 13 months ago, he was last pictured on a major league mound piled into a heap with a torn ACL in his left knee and he hasn’t felt right since. He vowed that day that he did not want this memory to be his last, and for the Dodgers reliever to return.
He got there. On Wednesday night, for the first time in 392 days, Hudson recorded a major league save, requiring 29 hits to finish the 6-4 win over the Pirates.
The euphoria of the moment eroded as the adrenaline faded. Hudson, after only three appearances upon his return, suffered an MCL sprain in the right knee. CEO Dave Roberts said Thursday he’ll be out “for some time,” pausing everything but excluding Hudson for the year.
“I can’t put into words how frustrating it is, how disappointing it is for him,” said Roberts.
On Wednesday, as Hudson spoke after the rescue, his eyes filled with tears and turned red. Walking through the Bolben Gates, he said, was “a special feeling”. He and bullpen coach Josh Bard roasted him with bourbon. Hudson’s teammates, who were crying out for his return, were energetic and Hudson had twice undergone Tommy John surgeries and endured all that the sport had to offer; But this ACL rehab, at 36 years old, was as frustrating as any of them.
“We were talking about six to nine (months) but my old ass couldn’t come back in nine,” Hudson said of the 13-month recovery period. “Thank God though we got there.”
It came at a severe cost. Hudson sprained his right knee, which did not undergo surgery, on his penultimate pitch on Wednesday. He threw another one, sliding, and had Jack Swinsky take a swing at it to end the night.
Roberts shook his head in amazement at Hudson’s ability to finish the outing, and the emotion that followed. “I have no idea,” he said. “Courage, I tell you man, courage.”
So the latest news of Hudson’s injury is a brutal turnaround in a career that has been hit with plenty of potential knockouts. It might be enough for the Dodgers’ jittery stick to fall to the ground; They’ve struggled enough without Hudson this year after he emerged as the Dodgers’ top reliever prior to his injury last June.
The hope was to have a similar impact this summer for a group that entered Thursday’s 24th-ranked in baseball with a 4.47 ERA and is already experiencing notable absences with a few boosts on the way. Blake Treinen remains elusive this year, and there’s no guarantee JP Feyereisen will either. Alex Reyes is already out for this year. Just on Thursday, the Dodgers placed Yencey Almonte on paternity leave pending an announcement if Brusdar Graterol will join Hudson on the injured list as he feels discomfort in his right shoulder.
The tension has gotten so high that the Dodgers kept potential starter Landon Knack in reserve in Los Angeles on Thursday in case they needed to get a little more length; The 25-year-old right fielder was just the fourth Dodgers starter (and fifth pitcher overall) to debut with the club this season, with all three starting to his name above Double A. Simulated 24-Hour Game Thursday in case they need more length in a game Bulls while limping towards the All-Star break. The right-hander, who has a whopping 7.16 ERA in 12 starts this season, hasn’t played since going on the injured list last month due to a blister and mental reset.
The Dodgers’ promotional needs in the next month’s trade deadlines have gone beyond the point of simply looking for promotions. They need as much help as possible to make it through.
“There are more questions that need to be answered,” said Roberts. “I think (this injury) adds another layer.”
(Photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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