After a strong season out of Arizona's bullpen in 2015, Daniel Hudson took a step back last season. His ERA and WHIP both went up and his K/9 went down. Hudson did at least finish strong, posting a 2.78 ERA and 9.9 K/9 from Aug. 1 through the end of the season. He also ended up going 5-of-7 in save opportunities after the team traded both Brad Ziegler and Tyler Clippard during the season. He inked a two-year, $12 million deal with the Pirates during the offseason, which is a pretty solid landing spot if he hopes to eventually pitch his way into a ninth inning role. Tony Watson figures to begin the year as the closer, but the veteran southpaw only has 20 career saves over six seasons and lacks the wipeout arsenal of the traditional closers of the era. Hudson could be next in line if Watson falters, especially if the move from Arizona to Pittsburgh has the presumed effect of him becoming a slightly better pitcher.
Hudson recorded only one out Sunday while giving up five runs on four hits and one home run against the Marlins. Hudson saw his ERA jump from 5.59 to 9.90 because of the outing, which was a fitting way to end a relatively dismal first month of the season. The 30-year-old still operates as Pittsburgh's primary setup man and has recorded seven holds, but he's allowed 11 runs over 10 innings.
Hudson will serve as the team's primary setup man to start 2017, Stephen Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. Manager Clint Hurdle said he expects his seventh, eighth and ninth innings to line up with Felipe Rivero, Hudson and closer Tony Watson. Hudson will get the first chance to close if Watson can't go, but Rivero is waiting in the wings.
Hudson will serve as Pittsburgh's closer on days Tony Watson is unable to close, CBS Pittsburgh reports. Pirates GM Neal Huntington announced the team's pecking order for saves, listing Watson first and then Hudson and Felipe Rivero. Huntington typically doesn't permit his relievers to pitch three straight days, giving Hudson the chance to potentially close after Watson has thrown in back-to-back calendar days. It wouldn't be surprising to see the Pirates move Watson (who will become a free agent after 2017) at the trade deadline, freeing up Hudson to close in the second half of the season.
Hudson signed a two-year, $11 million contract with the Pirates on Monday, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reports. While Hudson's produced an ugly 5.22 ERA and 1.44 WHIP over 60.1 innings with the Diamondbacks last season, the right-hander flashed the skills that suggested he could become a dominant reliever. Hudson had an average fastball velocity of nearly 96 miles per hour and struck out nearly a batter per inning last season, so if pitching coach Ray Searage can work his magic and help him improve his secondary offerings, he could show vast improvement with his numbers. For the time being, Tony Watson is the frontrunner to open the season as the Pirates' closer, but Hudson could rank as the top challenger out of the bullpen. He briefly served as the Diamondbacks' closer in the final month of the season to promising results, generating three saves and a 1.54 ERA over 11.2 innings.
Hudson got the final four outs, including a strikeout, in Wednesday's win over San Diego for his fourth save. He lived dangerously, allowing three line drives -- all caught, fortunately. The Diamondbacks don't offer Hudson a whole ton of save chances, but he's been at his most effective lately; over his last seven appearances (7.1 innings), he's allowed just a single run on seven hits with a 12:2 K:BB.
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