It was July 24, 2013, and Tim Hudson was dealing.
Hudson, then with the Braves, was working on a four-hit shutout in the eighth inning when Mets left-fielder Eric Young Jr. hit a ground ball to first base. The ball took an awkward hop, and by the time Freddie Freeman found his grip, Young was almost to first base. Freeman flipped the ball to Hudson, who was angling toward first base as if trying to find his footing in the dark.
Hudson didn’t fall – not yet, anyway – but his foot caught too much of the bag, and Young inadvertently stepped on it. Hudson broke his right ankle and needed season-ending surgery.
Many people, including Doug Gottlieb, thought they had seen the last of the 38-year-old Hudson, who would surely be forced into early retirement.
Even Hudson thought that was a possibility.
“Honestly, I really didn’t know,” he said on The Doug Gottlieb Show. “Obviously that aways goes through your head whenever you have an injury like this, especially at that point in your career. I wasn’t exactly a spring chicken out there. But because it wasn’t arm-related, I felt like there was a chance I could come back from it, depending on how the surgery went.”
The surgery went well.
“The doctors said everything went really good and everything was put back together,” Hudson said. “Then it was just the process of getting it healed up and rehabbing it back and seeing where I was after that.”
About three months his surgery, Hudson was confident he’d return to the majors. A free agent, he signed a two-year, $23 million deal with the Giants last November.
“Obviously, there’s times when (my ankle) gets ticked off, and I have to stay on top of it from a treatment standpoint,” Hudson said. “But because it wasn’t arm-related, I felt confident pretty soon after the surgery that I was going to be able to come back.”
Has he ever. Hudson is 5-2 with a 1.92 ERA, a 0.88 WHIP and has 44 strikeouts to just six walks in 70.1 innings. He’s a big reason why the Giants (35-19) have the best record in baseball.
“I don’t rely on power stuff like I did when I was younger,” said Hudson, who turns 39 in July. “Now I rely a lot more on (changing speeds) and coming up with a really good game plan every day. I still feel like my stuff’s good. I still feel like I have enough to go out there and get people out with my stuff, but it’s not quite as easy as it was when I was younger, so you have to come with more of a total package.”
Hudson also likes that he can be aggressive at AT&T Park, which is one of the more pitcher-friendly ball parks in all of baseball. And even though he’s a Georgia native, he feels right at home in the Bay Area. Hudson began his career in Oakland in 1999 and played there through 2004.
“It’s tremendous being back to the Bay Area,” he said. “It’s a little different on this side of the Bay than it is on the other side of the Bay, but it’s very exciting for me and my family. We’re really happy. It’s a great organization and obviously a great start to the season for us.”
Hudson, if you’re curious, has no ill-will toward Young – not last July, and certainly not now.
“It was such a bang-bang play and I was kind of feeling for the bag a little bit, and he was trying to beat out a base hit and get on base to keep that inning going,” Hudson said. “They were still in the ball game and he was just playing hard. I have no problems with it. Obviously he felt horrible, (and) obviously I felt horrible, but it’s all baseball stuff. Everybody’s playing hard. It is what it is. Unfortunately, things like that happen sometimes in this game.”