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Hudson looking like a short-timer for slow-starting Padres

By Scott Miller | Senior Baseball Columnist
So far this season, things are awful for the Padres, who entered Friday night's game against Philadelphia with the majors' worst record.

But they may be even worse for veteran second baseman Orlando Hudson, who is hitting just .143, has been abysmal on the bases and a non-presence with the younger players in the clubhouse.

If the veteran second baseman does not turn things around soon, club sources indicate, the Padres are prepared to release him.

The move would not be insignificant, in that the Padres are fielding the majors' lowest payroll at $55.6 million and would wind up eating not only the remainder of Hudson's $5.5 million contract this year, but also the $2 million buyout on next year's club option.

Hudson and shortstop Jason Bartlett, each of whom signed two-year deals before the 2011 season under then-general manager Jed Hoyer and then-incoming owner Jeff Moorad, have both been major disappointments. And Bartlett has his own set of issues: His $5.5 million option for 2013 automatically vests with 432 plate appearances. He currently has 47.

Neither player factors into the rebuilding club's plans for next year in a construction project that is becoming more dire by the day. Both two-year deals have backfired badly, with each player becoming a major disappointment.

Bartlett was not in the lineup Friday night as Padres manager Bud Black opted for Andy Parrino, a 26-year-old rookie who has impressed the club with his energy, acumen and .300 batting average.

Hudson, in fact, sat out two of three games in Colorado earlier this week while Parrino started at second.

Hudson's end with the Padres well could coincide with the return of infielder Logan Forsythe, who is headed to extended spring training in Arizona this weekend after undergoing ankle surgery during the spring.

Forsythe's extended spring stay likely will be a couple of weeks, and then he's expected to spend another 10 days to two weeks on an injury rehabilitation assignment in the minor leagues.

Unless Hudson reverses course, there is a good chance he'll get his walking papers sometime before, or about the time, Forsythe returns.

Hudson, a non-factor at the plate so far, was dropped to eighth in the lineup against Philadelphia's Cole Hamels on Friday. Entering Friday's game, he had struck out 10 times in 42 at-bats and walked once.

He committed a major inning-ending baserunning gaffe two Saturdays ago against the Dodgers, killing a rally, that exacerbated the Padres' wheels coming off in the first season's few games. He rounded first way too far after punching a bases-loaded single in the fifth inning, drawing a throw that caught him stranded off of the bag. With a runner ahead of him at second, it was an egregious error by anyone, but especially an 11-year veteran. Hudson tried to make the most of it by prolonging a rundown, but the Dodgers threw Nick Hundley out at the plate to end the inning. The Padres wound up losing the game in the 11th inning.

"It's like he's playing T-ball," said one scout who has watched the Padres often this year. "Run til you're out."

The scout has been stunned at how done Hudson looks.

"He plays so deep at second base because his range is gone," the scout said. "And then he dives at balls like he's body surfing."

Hudson hit only .246 last year with a .329 on-base percentage and made two trips to the disabled list with a strained hamstring and a strained groin. Within that were several other disappointing moments, punctuated by a midseason play in which he caught a popup and flipped the ball into the stands, thinking it was the third out. It was only the second.

That's baseball, he explained afterward, saying, "I thought it was funny."

A team that was going from 90 wins in 2010 to 91 losses in 2011 did not think it was funny.

The way things are going now, that moment is going to wind up as his legacy in San Diego.

"It is very appropriate," the scout said, "that he is playing his final year at Petco Park."

Woof.

 
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