Hudson strong in first spring start for Giants
Veteran coming back from ankle injury hurls two shutout innings
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Briefly leaving teammates behind, Tim Hudson bounded from the Giants dugout and headed for the mound before Scottsdale Stadium's public-address announcer introduced the lineup en masse.
"I was pretty anxious to get out there," Hudson said.
The 38-year-old right-hander channeled his eagerness into something approaching excellence. In his first competitive activity as a Giant, Hudson threw two hitless innings Sunday in San Francisco's 5-3 Cactus League triumph over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Hudson established control immediately by striking out the first batter he faced, Gerardo Parra, on three pitches. Then he faced the challenge of covering first base twice in the next inning and improved markedly from one play to the next.
Hudson awkwardly covered first -- the same play on which he fractured his right ankle last July 24 -- on Eric Chavez's second-inning grounder that was wide of the bag. Hudson let Brandon Belt's apparently catchable throw sail by, resulting in an error for the first baseman.
Asked whether he put the blame on himself for the mishap, Hudson replied, "I put the first one on the fact that I'm old and slow. [Belt's] probably used to having some of those young, fast pitchers getting over to first base. I'm like an old, vintage car. You can't take me to a drag race."
Employing another simile, Hudson added, "I probably could have caught it, but I would have felt like Wes Welker going over the middle with a linebacker looking at me. I'm not sure that Spring Training is the time I want to do that, in my first game out."
But Chavez was erased on Miguel Montero's inning-ending double-play grounder, which prompted Hudson to cover first properly.
"Wouldn't you know I'd have two pretty challenging plays right out of the gate," said Hudson, who recently began participating in fielding and agility drills.
Hudson insisted that he has no psychological hangover dating back to his previous outing, when the Mets' Eric Young accidentally stepped on his foot and caused the gruesome injury.
"Mentally, I'm fine with all of it," Hudson said. "For me, I just trust that everything's healed up right. Now it's just the strengthening part of it. ... It's just [a matter of] getting my body strong and in shape and getting ready for 100-plus pitches a game."
It's only March, and this is just the Cactus League. But the Giants are encouraged that three members of their projected starting rotation, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong and Hudson, who signed a two-year, $23 million deal with San Francisco last November, have combined to pitch six scoreless innings. Matt Cain was rained out of his Saturday start against the Cubs and Tim Lincecum pitches Monday against San Diego.
The Giants must duplicate these efforts in the regular season to have a chance at contending in the National League West. Their rotation recorded a 4.37 ERA last year, their highest mark since 2006 (4.58). After ranking among the top five in team starters' ERA the previous four seasons (2009-12), the Giants' 4.37 figure was the NL's third-highest behind Colorado (4.57) and Philadelphia (4.41).
Hudson complained about his lack of command with his offspeed pitches but still threw 17 strikes in 27 pitches. Holding himself to a higher standard at least partially accounts for his status as the Major Leagues' leading active winner (205), a distinction he shares with Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia.
"He looked sharp," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He hit his spots, had good rhythm going, had pretty much what you're looking for, especially early. It's been a long road that he's gone down to get back on the mound and he looks good."