PITTSBURGH — Daniel Hudson is not having a great start to his 2017 season. The Pirates’ reliever, who has been tasked with securing the eighth inning since coming over from Arizona on a two-year, $11 million contract, has a 1.97 WHIP and an 8.49 ERA is 14 appearances.
Earlier this week in Cincinnati, Hudson gave up a run in extra inning, aided by his own error on a pickoff attempt. It was the third consecutive outing he had been scored upon. Afterwards, Hudson tweeted to Pirates fans about his own frustration with the way his season has been going.
“It’s just showing my frustration,” Hudson said. “I’m just as frustrated as the fans are. It can be a very negative place on there sometimes. I had about 20 mentions about how bad I suck. I just wanted to let them know that I know I suck right now. It is what it is. It’s just part of who I am. I just wanted to not necessarily respond but let everyone know I’m human and it’s going to get better.”
Part of the reason that Hudson has been drawing the ire of the Pirates’ faithful online is the price tag that was attached to his signing, and that’s a fact he’s well aware of.
“You want to do well everywhere you go, but then maybe there’s a little bit of added pressure when you’re one of the guys they brought in to fill a pretty important role back there and get the ball to Watty in the ninth inning,” Hudson said. “I just haven’t really done anything particularly well this year so far. I don’t know if it’s in the back of my mind, but at the same time, it’s not something that I focus on all the time.”
Hudson has been throwing the ball over the strike zone — his BB/9 is 3.9 after sitting at 3.3 each of the last two seasons. The problem is that guys are hitting his strikes. Hard. He’s been the victim of an unsustainably high .410 BABIP and his 12.5 percent HR/FB rate is elevated after being just a hair over 10 each of the last two seasons.
But the other thing that Hudson has working against him is something (usually) more in the pitchers’ control. He’s getting way fewer ground balls. His ground ball rate is currently 25.6 percent, down from 40.9 in 2016 and a career rate of 39.5 percent. He said he’s been working to make adjustments, but there isn’t one singular focus.
“It’s a little bit of everything that’s off — not necessarily one thing to key one,” he said. “I’m just trying to put in the work, watch some video, do some dry work, some flat-ground in between and then try to be ready every eighth inning.”
Part of that work has immersed Hudson with pitching coach Ray Searage and bullpen coach Euclides Rojas on getting his delivery back in sync. It’s the first time since coming to Pittsburgh that Hudson has had to deal with making such an adjustment and he was complimentary of the way the staff has worked with him.
“They’ve been great,” Hudson said. “They’ve been everything I could’ve hope for coming into a new organization. Very supportive and they can see it from their perspectives. It’s something we sit down and try to iron out and do the work.”
The Pirates gave Hudson the opportunity to put some of those things into play on Thursday in a lower-leverage situation. He pitched the eighth inning with the team trailing, 4-2.
“We wanted him to pitch,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “Ray and him are working on some things. I wanted to give him the opportunity to not sit too long and get the opportunity to work on it. You can throw all day in the bullpen. It’s not the same.”
Hudson started the inning with a walk, but then followed that up by getting Scott Schebler to pop up and then induced an all-important ground ball from Patrick Kivlehan for a double play. He was pleased with the way things felt.
“It’s close, man. It’s almost there. Hopefully, I’ll get a couple good outings in and it’ll just take off,” he said. “It’s early and hopefully, I have 55 more games under my belt to get it straightened out.”
Pirates starter Chad Kuhl is back on the mound five days after leaving his last start in pain. Kuhl was struck on the inside of his right knee by a line drive off the bat of Miami Marlins infielder Dee Gordon.
Kuhl was removed from the game after trying unsuccessfully to continue pitching, but he immediately began preparations for his next start.
“He got right back out there the next day as far as treatment, exercise and strength testing,” Hurdle said. “He got physically active. He threw his scheduled side without any problem. He ran sprints. He did all his normal work-up. He didn’t miss anything.”
CERVELLI GOES BACK-TO-BACK
Francisco Cervelli will start for the second consecutive day and is seeming over the right foot discomfort that held him out of the lineup earlier in the week. But trainer Todd Tomczyk has indicated that the issues with Cervelli’s foot are likely to linger, so Hurdle and company are considering giving Cervelli more days off than they have in the past.
“I think we need to see an evaluate him day-to-day as he goes. Can we be more proactive with rest? We’ll see. We’ll discuss that.” Hurdle said. “We need to get a good feel from him what’s he feeling coming out of games, especially monitoring extra-inning games and maybe a more heightened awareness of extra-inning games and day games after night games moving forward.”
The team continues to carry three catchers, with Elias Diaz and Chris Stewart backing up Cervelli.
FRAZIER APPROACHING REHAB STINT
Adam Frazier (left hamstring strain) took infield agility drills and ran the bases, two of the final steps required before going out on a rehab stint, which could happen as soon as this weekend.