DURHAM, N.C.–Minor leaguers are prepared (and want) to change teams during the season. Yet White Sox righthander Dan Hudson’s experience has been more nomadic than usual.
Hudson, a fifth-round pick last year from Old Dominion, began the year in low Class A Kannapolis. Four months later, Hudson is in Triple-A Charlotte after stops in high Class A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham. With a late-season promotion to Chicago still a possibility, Hudson will have crossed paths with nearly everyone in the organization.
Pitching yesterday at Durham, the 22-year-old Hudson allowed one run in five innings, surrendering two walks and six hits while striking out four. Through three starts with the Knights, Hudson’s ERA is now 2.81 in 16 innings with 12 strikeouts and five walks. On the season, Hudson has a 2.26 ERA in 139 1/3 innings with 154 strikeouts (third-most in the minor leagues) and 30 walks.
"He pitched pretty good considering that he didn’t have real good command of his pitches," said Knights pitching coach Richard Dotson. "He battled well and he showed an excellent changeup, so he did what he was supposed to do."
Hudson, 22, showed three pitches that scouts who have seen him this year have said all at least flash as major league average or better. Hudson’s fastball ranged from 90-93 mph, mostly coming in at 91-92. He didn’t have great command, however, as he had to leave after throwing 91 pitches (53 strikes) and too often started behind in the count.
"The thing is with Daniel, if he gets to where he gets locked in to where he can locate his fastball to both sides and get his breaking ball more consistent, he’s going to be something," Dotson said.
Throwing from a three-quarters arm slot, Hudson shows the ball early in his windup with his long arm action, though Dotson said his delivery throws off some hitters.
"He’s got deception, he stays closed real well (with his delivery)," Dotson said. "With the way he hides it—he’s got a long arm arc behind him, he’s long and slow—but the fact is when it comes out, I think it surprises people. The stuff’s there, it’s just the consistency of the location and command."
Hudson’s changeup elicited more than a handful of swings and misses, showing good sink and fade at 81-83 mph. His 81-86 slider was a solid pitch at times (scouts who have seen him this year have said it’s flashed average tilt), though it flattened out occassionally when he dropped his arm slot. Hudson also flashed a couple of slow but big-breaking 70-71 curveballs as a show-me pitch.
"He can throw (his slider) to both sides of the plate, it’s just a matter of him being more consistent with it, getting it where he wants it," Dotson said. "With his delivery and his arm action, sometimes he’ll get too low on it and kind of cast it a little bit. If he gets on top of the ball and he throws the ball out front, he’s really good."
Hudson allowed his only run in the third inning, when Bulls center fielder Desmond Jennings turned on a 93 mph fastball on the inner half for a triple to center field, showing outstanding foot speed as well as exit speed off the bat—a reading of 95 mph. He scored on the next pitch when left fielder Jon Weber laced a changeup for a single up the middle.
Charlotte closer Jon Link is already 25, but the righthander has a solid three-pitch mix and is averaging 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings. On the flip side, he also has walked 4.2 per nine with a 4.56 ERA in 49 1/3 innings for the Knights.
While pitching a scoreless ninth inning yesterday, Link showed a 93-94 mph fastball, an 85 mph slider and an 82 mph changeup. Link struck out the first two of the four hitters he faced, then got first baseman Chris Richard to swing and miss at a 93 mph fastball before inducing a whiff from third baseman Joe Dillon against a slider.
"Jon has three pretty good pitches; it’s just an adjustment here in Triple-A with some older hitters and they can do some things that they don’t do in Double-A," Dotson said.
"For him, it’s being able to command the fastball to both sides of the plate. He’s gotten quicker to the plate. He can slide step . . . so he can shut down the running game if he has to, which has been great. He’s learning how to pitch against tougher lefthanded hitters where he’s got to locate the fastball in to them and be able to throw changeups instead of just being a sinker/slider guy."
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