3/1/2013 5:00 P.M. ET
Hudson works through Tommy John recovery
Right-hander wants to be with team, but has opportunity to tinker with mechanics
By Steve Gilbert / MLB.com
MESA, Ariz. -- As Spring Training approached, the dread started to creep into Daniel Hudson's mind.
The D-backs right-hander usually welcomed the start of camp, eager to begin a new season. This year, though, Hudson knew that he would not be able to pitch due to the Tommy John surgery he had last summer.
Instead of joining his fellow pitchers on the field to throw bullpens, he instead works out in the weight room, gets treatment, plays catch and tries not to go crazy.
"It's just a boring spring so far watching everyone do their stuff," Hudson said. "The offseason was much easier."
Why is that?
"Because I didn't have to come to the field and watch everyone else play baseball while I can't," said Hudson, who hopes to finally throw off a mound in a couple of weeks.
Hudson's 2012 season came to a grinding halt on a hot, muggy night in Atlanta on June 26 when his elbow gave out.
Hudson had been on the disabled list earlier in the year with some shoulder discomfort, but did not realize that the after-start soreness he had been feeling in his elbow was anything to be concerned about.
"I've heard that it either happens over a long period of time or it just happens on one pitch, and it didn't happen on one pitch for me," Hudson said. "It was a gradual thing where it just got worse and worse and worse and I just tried to keep going. Before Atlanta, it never felt like it did that night. If it had, I would have taken myself out sooner.
"In Atlanta, it got to the breaking point where I couldn't throw anything. It was one of those things where if I would have said something four starts earlier, I probably still would have had to have surgery. It wouldn't have made a difference."
Regardless, the fact remains that Hudson had Tommy John surgery performed by Lewis Yocum on July 9 and began the slow rehab process shortly thereafter.
"He didn't even want to have the surgery when it was first diagnosed," D-backs general manager Kevin Towers said. "He thought he could rehab it and pitch through it and I think he tried to pitch through it the early part of last year, which probably didn't do us any good or him any good, but that's part of what I love about him too. He's a fierce, fierce competitor."
Hudson said the injury would not change that. He'll still be the competitor who insists on taking the ball even when he doesn't feel 100 percent, as long as he feels he gives his team a chance to win.
Still, though, there are some concessions he's making.
First, he'll make sure that he doesn't overdo things in his between-start throwing.
"I'm always that guy that if I don't locate my last few fastballs in a bullpen session, I'll throw four more," Hudson said. "This just teaches me [if] you're done for the day, get off the mound. You don't have to do any more. You've got your work in for the day."
Hudson's arm action when he pitches has always been a slinging across the body motion that could put extra stress on his arm.
To try and combat that, Hudson is trying to make the most of his rehab time to strengthen other areas of his body to help take stress off his shoulder and elbow.
In addition, he's working on a couple of mechanical changes, including getting the ball out of his glove quicker and not taking his throwing hand back as far during his motion. The further your hand gets behind your body, the more stress is placed on the elbow.
"It's just kind of fine tuning and getting more parts of my body incorporated in the mechanical process," Hudson said. "I'm not changing my arm slot or anything. You do something for 20 years it's hard to break that habit."
Even the small changes he's making are challenging. Hudson has a trainer film his motion when he plays catch and while he thinks he's making the changes, he'll look at the video and realize he isn't.
"It's a long process," Hudson said. "I'm open to try pretty much anything because, well, I broke. Obviously I didn't have perfect mechanics before. Hopefully this stuff works and I never have to deal with this again."