UPDATE: On Thursday afternoon, the Dodgers were informed Hudson suffered a sprained MCL in his non-surgically-repaired knee and that the right-hander will miss "quite some time." This article was written before that news broke, which provides yet another blow to the Dodgers bullpen.
The team was hoping the veteran could become a back-end stabilizer alongside Evan Phillips, which he seemed to be proving over his last two outings, but it was unfortunately nothing but a tease. It'll be back to the drawing board for the front office as they play the waiting game with a number of other injured relievers looking to make their way back.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have eternally been waiting for bullpen reinforcements this year, but they haven't arrived. Andrew Friedman's many low-risk, high-reward gambles have failed to pay off and nobody has been able to support Evan Phillips in the back end.
That might've changed last week, however, when Daniel Hudson finally returned from missing most of last season and the first three months of 2023 as he recovered from a torn ACL and battled ankle tendinitis.
This was another one of Friedman's gambles, as he immediately exercised Hudson's $6.5 million team option for 2023 just weeks after the right-hander suffered the season-ending injury. Though the early returns aren't exactly flawless, they're encouraging.
Hudson's tossed three scoreless innings since June 30. He's allowed three walks and two hits while striking out five. On Wednesday night, he recorded his first save in over a year when he worked in and out of trouble against the Pirates at Dodger Stadium.
He's already proving to be resilient despite hardly pitching since June 24, 2022. The Dodgers signed him after the 2021 season with a plan for him to be a bullpen stabilizer, which he was up until his injury (2.22 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 30 strikeouts and five saves in 24.1 innings).
Daniel Hudson could mark key turnaround for Dodgers in 2023
The ups and downs for the Dodgers bullpen have been remarkable in 2023. Alex Vesia is no longer a key contributor. He's at Triple-A OKC with Victor Gonzalez, as the two left-handers have struggled mightily this year. Yency Almonte, though he's been rebounding, has experienced a regression. Phil Bickford failed to bounce back. Brusdar Graterol has been good, but many wouldn't characterize him as "reliable."
Instead, Caleb Ferguson has stepped up. Shelby Miller was Phillips' main source of support before he went down with a neck injury. Ryan Brasier has somehow been effective over 8.1 innings ever since he was inked to a minor-league deal.
Throw a rejuvenated and motivated Hudson into the mix, and the trade deadline becomes a lot less complicated for LA. A promising audition for the right-hander before the All-Star break could change the complexion of the bullpen moving forward.
Then there's the potential for Blake Treinen, Walker Buehler, Jimmy Nelson and JP Feyereisen to get back into the mix within the next couple months. That's undoubtedly a lot of risk to hinge on (and we'd maybe bank on one of those guys becoming a force), but if Hudson can up the energy and help the Dodgers in high-leverage situations in the midst of these other injury timetables, it'd really make manager Dave Roberts' job easier.
Vesia was the Dodgers' bulldog last year, getting the team out of tight spots and letting the opponent hear it with his roars and celebrations. They haven't had that at all this year thanks to a revolving door of injuries and unforeseen struggles.
If Hudson can begin providing that in pressure-filled situations as more helps works its way back, the Dodgers could shore up the most troubling aspect of their roster without having to do too much heavy lifting.