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White Sox Mon Jul 12 2010

Sox Rookie Labors in Rotation Debut

SoxLogoSmall.jpegWith all real baseball fans paying at best cursory attention to the monstrosity known as the modern Home Run Derby, let's rewind to Sunday afternoon and examine Daniel Hudson's first attempt at filling the void left in the White Sox rotation by Jake Peavy's season-ending injury.

Overall, it wasn't great. The 23-year-old right-hander threw 74 pitches and left after failing to retire a batter in the fifth inning. Staked to an 8-1 lead after Chicago's seven-run third inning, Hudson couldn't hang around long enough to get the victory.

The final line: 4.0 innings, 6 hits, 5 runs (all earned), 3 walks, 4 strikeouts. He didn't have great stuff and fell behind too often, prodding around the edges of the strikes zone.

hudson mug.jpg"Those games can kind of hurt you sometimes, when you don't have good command and you're up in the zone a lot and you're not throwing your off-speed for strikes and all you've got is a fastball," Hudson told ESPN Chicago. "Sometimes the score dictates them being more aggressive and that's how they were today. I left some fastballs up in the last couple innings and they crushed them."

Hudson, the franchise's best pitching prospect, hung in there through three innings despite three walks, a single and a sacrifice fly. In the fourth, though, Billy Butler smacked a meatball to left-center for a double and Jose Guillen followed with a line-drive homer just over left-centerfield fence.

Hudson regained his footing temporarily, but Mitch Maier led off the fifth by slapping a single to center and Yuniesky Betancourt of all people cracked a double to left, just out of Juan Pierre's reach. Scott Podsednik dropped a base hit in front of Andruw Jones in right field and that was it for the rookie. Jason Kendall closed Hudson's line by singling off Tony Pena to score Betancourt.

It could have been better. It might have been worse. It would have been nice to see Hudson's line if the Sox outfield hadn't been playing deep to protect against a big inning. Pierre was no Gold Glover in left, and perhaps Andruw could have caught the Podsednik wilting liner that finally prompted Ozzie to go to the bullpen.

Either way, let's not read too much into one game. It was Hudson's third major-league start. Better to heed the scouting reports of analysts like Jason Grey at ESPN.com, who wrote last week that Hudson "could have success at the big league level right now" if the White Sox called on him.

Grey's full analysis is worth checking out if you have ESPN Insider access, but here's a taste:

The 23-year-old right-hander is a pretty polished pitcher who doesn't get quite the love from scouts as some other players because of his lack of a real standout pitch. What he does do is throw three solid pitches pretty well and change speeds, and he does a decent job of throwing strikes.

His four-seamer will sit at 91-94 with some arm-side run. His best secondary offering is a low-80s changeup that flashes as a plus pitch with good sink and fade, and he throws it without tipping it with his arm speed. His mid-80s slider is a solid-average pitch when he gets on top of it, with decent tilt that he can bury in the bottom of the strike zone. He also has a mid-70s soft, loopy curveball he rarely uses, and for good reason.

Hudson has the repertoire and a big (6-foot-4) pitcher's build; he just needs a little more consistent command of his pitches to maximize his potential. He has long arm action and throws slightly across his body. While that gives him a touch of deception, it also doesn't always allow him to repeat his delivery and arm slot as well he should, causing his slider to flatten out.

While he's not necessarily prone to walks, he does get behind in counts more than he should at times and runs his pitch count up early. His mistakes are generally up in the zone, and his home park won't do him any favors in limiting the damage from them.

All that said, Hudson has shown an ability to make adjustments quickly, and I like the overall package of stuff, polish and makeup. He can be a solid third or fourth starter in the big leagues.

For now, the Sox just need him to be a solid fifth starter. Sunday's struggle was only one game, but they need to see more next time out.

 
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