Hudson passes Dodgers physical
Second baseman officially takes place atop depth chart
PHOENIX -- Orlando Hudson passed his Dodgers physical on Saturday, and the three-time Gold Glove and former All-Star is expected to be the Dodgers second baseman on Opening Day.Considering what Hudson's left wrist went through in August, that's saying something. That's also why the bargain free-agent contract he officially signed on Saturday has incentives based on plate appearances that could take his salary from $3.38 million to $8 million.
At issue is his wrist that was dislocated Aug. 9 while playing defense for Arizona and kept him from swinging a bat until last month.Hudson was injured in a bizarre play that started when a line drive off the bat of Atlanta's Brian McCann was deflected by Arizona third baseman Mark Reynolds, who retrieved the ball in shallow left field and threw to shortstop Stephen Drew, who was covering third. The ball skipped past Drew to pitcher Juan Cruz (backing up the play), who threw toward second as McCann rounded first. Cruz's off-target throw pulled Hudson into the runner and his glove jammed against McCann's stomach, bending his wrist back. The injury required two operations to fix, one for a broken bone and one for a torn ligament two days later. Hudson missed the rest of the season in a repeat of the way he ended 2007, when he had surgery to repair torn ligaments in his left thumb in early September. "My health is great," Hudson told Inside Dodgertown. "Obviously, I had a nasty wrist injury, that's no secret. I've worked hard to get back, I'm hitting at full speed and taking ground balls at full speed and everything is right on track. I'm ready to help the Dodgers have a good season this year."
General manager Ned Colletti said the Dodgers worked out Hudson on back-to-back days at Pepperdine University in Malibu three weeks ago, when Hudson appeared "rusty," and again last Sunday in Houston."The change was dramatic," Colletti said. "He's a lot freer swinging, more fluid in defensive play. He comes in a little behind, but with no restrictions." Colletti seized the opportunity of a depressed free-agent market to get a discounted Hudson, whose arrival will displace Blake DeWitt, who came into Spring Training as the apparent second baseman with the retirement of Jeff Kent. DeWitt had replaced Kent during the stretch run last year and in the postseason. Manager Joe Torre met with DeWitt on Saturday and told him his role has not been decided, but that he should work out at several positions, including shortstop. "He seemed fine," Torre said. "He needs to be the guy he's been. He needs to keep his chin up and work hard." DeWitt responded to the official signing with the same professional attitude he displayed as rumors heated up earlier in the week. "The situation is pretty obvious. He's a good player coming in, and I'll do whatever asked," Dewitt said, referring to Hudson. "It's a good thing to get a player of that caliber." Torre said he has "admired" Hudson and thought he had the best range of any American League second baseman when he played for Toronto from 2002-05, noting that his bat improved in recent years. He said the Dodgers infield defense will be tightened and Hudson would bring "electricity" to the club as a speedy, aggressive player. Torre said he spoke to Hudson on Thursday on a recruiting call. The Dodgers haven't had a Gold Glove winner at second base since Davey Lopes in 1978. It's conceivable Hudson's wrist won't be 100 percent by Opening Day and DeWitt could still make the club. As for a utility role, Torre implied that a healthy Tony Abreu would be more likely because he can play shortstop, presumably with DeWitt playing every day at Triple-A. But Abreu needs to show he's shaken two years of injuries.
Torre indicated a healthy switch-hitting Hudson would be a good fit to bat second behind Rafael Furcal and that he might move Casey Blake to left field (and DeWitt to third), but that was more a double-switch option than for everyday positioning. Torre emphasized he still is counting on unsigned free agent Manny Ramirez to start in left field.While Hudson might seem injury prone, he's also the kind of player for which nobody has a bad thing to say. "He's a solid dude, a teammate everybody loves," said Juan Pierre, who attended Hudson's wedding in November. "Some opponents might take offense at players who are energetic and talkative, but that's just him and you can tell about a guy by the way teammates talk about it." Claudio Vargas, now fighting for a Dodgers' pitching spot, was a D-backs teammate of Hudson in 2006. "He's a happy guy, he plays hard, he's a good teammate who fights for everybody," said Vargas. "This is a great deal for us to get him."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.