Dakota Hudson, a 13-game winner as a starter at Memphis this year, had pitched out of the bullpen before he joined the Cardinals, where he has ripped off 8 2/3 scoreless innings in relief and allowed just two hits and a walk. He had three saves at Class A Palm Beach at the end of his first pro season in 2016 and he had relieved at Mississippi State.
In fact, Hudson, who accomplished his first back-to-back pro appearances Tuesday and Wednesday, said he once worked three days in a row as a sophomore in college during a weekend series.
“But I had a week of recovery, so it’s different,” Hudson said. “That was a long year (as a reliever), but I did it once.”
Needing just 54 pitches to work his last 5 2/3 innings with the Cardinals, the 23-year-old Hudson would seem more than able to work on consecutive days although he hadn’t relieved in nearly two years. Of course, he also could be in the rotation here since he was the upper minor leagues’ top starter this year, but the Cardinals have slapped him into the bullpen and that is where he is likely to stay the rest of the season.
“Because he has been so good at doing it,” said pitching coach Mike Maddux. “The players will tell you what their roles are. Right now, he’s done a very nice job for us getting to the end of the game.”
Possessor of a hard sinker, like fellow reliever Jordan Hicks, Hudson was pitching in Hicks-like situations the past two games in Miami. He protected a one-run lead in the eighth on Tuesday and inherited a two-run lead in the seventh on Wednesday.
“I’m trying to get used to getting up and getting going a little quicker than starting,” he said. “I wait till they tell me to throw and I’m ready to go.”
Next year, he may be a starter but Hudson, who already has two wins in relief, said, “Whatever role, whatever job. The point is just to have a job.
“I just enjoy what I’m doing — trying to figure it out the best I can.”
As a reliever, Hudson said he dials back his pitch assortment, choosing to stick with his strengths. For instance, he hasn’t yet felt the need to throw too many changeups, preferring to “keep it in the back of my pocket. I guess I’m waiting to use it more situationally rather than just unveil everything. This is the highest level of hitters so I’m not going to be messing around.
“My changeup is my fourth pitch. I’m not saying I wouldn’t throw it, but it would have to be something I’d have to read from a hitter or where Yadi (Molina) is really calling it.”
Manager Mike Shildt called Hudson’s first 10 days or so in the majors “consistently impressive.”