In 2019, right-hander Dakota Hudson showed the potential to become a long-term fixture in the St. Louis Cardinals' starting rotation.
He finished the season 16-7 with a 3.35 ERA and was fifth in National League Rookie of the Year voting. But Hudson needed Tommy John surgery in 2020, and he has struggled to regain his pitch command since.
Hudson will continue his comeback journey on Tuesday when he gets the start for St. Louis in the middle game of a three-game set with the visiting Oakland Athletics.
The Cardinals won the series opener 7-5 on Monday night.
Hudson (3-0, 4.31 ERA) induced 11 ground balls over five innings in his most recent start, a 6-4 victory at Tampa Bay last Wednesday. He allowed three runs on seven hits, including two homers, while winning his second straight start.
"I think it's just about being able to land everything," Hudson told Bally Sports Midwest. "I think the ability to mix pitches up and change speeds, I think that's a big part of it. I think it's just being aware of the situation in the game and just making it real simple as far as just going for execution."
Hudson spent much of the season pitching at Triple-A Memphis, where he went 5-4 with a 6.00 ERA across 11 starts. He got a chance to move into the rotation after the Cardinals traded starting pitchers Jordan Montgomery and Jack Flaherty before the trade deadline.
Now Hudson, 28, is making his bid for a starting rotation spot in 2024.
"I don't feel I ever missed confidence," Hudson said. "But definitely having some results behind it kind of helps iron that out a little bit. Just getting an opportunity right here, seeing it for what it is: a chance to play baseball and pitch deep into games. That's what I like to do."
Hudson lost his only previous start against the A's, during the 2019 season. He allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits and five walks in 3 2/3 innings during an 8-3 loss.
The Athletics have not named a starter for Tuesday's game. Rookie right-hander Freddy Tarnok was in line to start for Oakland, but he landed on the 15-day injured list on Monday because of a right calf strain.
The A's called up fellow right-hander Spenser Watkins to replace Tarnok. They claimed Watkins off waivers from the Houston Astros on Aug. 8 and promoted him before he could appear in a game for Triple-A Las Vegas.
Oakland also reinstated outfielder Tony Kemp from the paternity list ahead of this series and optioned Cody Thomas to Las Vegas.
Rookie infielder Zack Gelof has been pacing Oakland's offense. He hit an RBI double on Monday and has reached base in all 12 games in August while going 16-for-46 (.348) with five homers and eight RBIs.
"He did a lot of great things in spring training to try and make the club. Starting in Triple-A, he had a phenomenal year there," Athletics manager Mark Kotsay said. "I think the time was right to bring him here and the confidence is there. He's a baseball player. It's fun to watch him play, and we're going to continue to watch him for a long time I think."
Cardinals catcher Willson Contreras is questionable for Tuesday's game. He left Monday's contest after three innings due to right hip tightness.
—Field Level Media