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MINOR LEAGUES

Luke Hudson's Tough Luck Yields Misleading Record

May 29, 2000|CHRIS FOSTER

John Stephens, a pitcher for Class-A Frederick, was masterful last Monday. He struck out 14, allowed one run on three hits. Yet, he lost, 1-0, to Salem of the Carolina League.

There was one guy present who could certainly empathize, Luke Hudson.

Hudson had been there, done that. Of course, his sympathy extended so far. He was the Salem pitcher that day.

"Hey, those type of games happen all the time," said Hudson, who pitched at Fountain Valley High and Tennessee.

Sure, to Hudson.

He has been dominating in all but one start this season. His earned-run average is 2.21.Opposing batters are hitting .202 against him. He has two shutouts in nine starts.

Yet, Hudson has a 3-4 record. Seems like a lot of work for little payoff, as Avalanche hitters seem to take a respite whenever he is pitching.

"We have a real good offense," Hudson said. "I've just had bad luck."

Just how bad is his luck?

Hudson started Saturday and the Avalanche scored 11 runs. However, he wasn't around to benefit from it, as he was pulled from the game after a one-hour rain delay in the second inning. Salem scored 10 runs after he left.

That's just the way things have gone this season.

Salem, a Colorado Rockies affiliate, blasted Wilmington for 15 runs in a game earlier this season. The next day, when Hudson pitched, the Avalanche scored one run.

Last Sunday, the Avalanche buried Frederick, 16-1. Hudson then got one run--an eighth-inning homer by Luis Landaeta--to work with the next day. He made it stand up, shutting out the Keys, who lead the Carolina League in runs.

Hudson allowed only four hits and struck out six.

"We feel kind of bad not giving the support he needs," said Salem outfielder Kevin Burford, who played with Hudson at Fountain Valley. "It seems like every time the other team's best pitcher is going against him. But the way Luke is pitching, we know he'll keep us close."

Hudson, a 23-year-old right-hander, has done it all season. He had a 2.04 ERA through his first three starts and lost all three.

He solved the problem by throwing seven shutout innings for his first victory. He threw a three-hit shutout in his next start.

Hudson has had only one bad start and it was against Frederick, which roughed him up for seven runs in five innings.

"One of their guys hit two home runs off me," Hudson said. "He hit a three-run homer in the first and a two-run homer in the fifth. Two swings, five runs batted in. I knew what to throw the guy [Monday] and it only took five RBIs for me to figure it out."

BIG LEAGUE HELP

Hudson has figured out a lot this season.

He was a fourth-round pick in 1998, but hardly had a distinguishable career through his first two professional seasons. His most notable incident during that time might have been in the fall of 1998, when he got smacked in the face with a line drive.

This season, though, Hudson has made a tremendous leap, which he credits to Avalanche pitching coach Bob McClure.

"He pitched 18 years in the major leagues and knows exactly what we're going through," Hudson said. "If you do something wrong on a certain pitch, or pitch sequence, [he'll know] because he's been there.

"We'll be sitting around the clubhouse watching major league games and he'll tell us how he pitched them. Ken Griffey Jr., we asked Bob how he pitched him. He said Griffey never got a hit off him because he threw fastballs away and curveballs. He told us how George Brett never got a hit off him until the time Bob accidentally hit him. Bob couldn't get him out after that. He has had those experiences."

The biggest lesson Hudson learned sounds easier said than done. Get ahead of the hitter.

"I'm much more aggressive this season," Hudson said. "Bob preaches throwing fastballs inside. You get behind hitters in this league and they hit you hard."

With his run support, Hudson has had little room for error.

"I guess the upside to not getting many runs is I'm more focused out there," Hudson said. "The games are close. You want to go out here and get them out as soon as you can. That's all I can do."

SHOWING OFF?

Burford, who also played at Rancho Santiago College, heated up last week, hitting home runs in three consecutive games. The secret to his success?

"His girlfriend came for a visit," Hudson said. "He had a home run every day she was in town."

Burford has six home runs on the season. He is hitting .312.

His career has picked up since being acquired from the Padres for John Vander Wal in 1998. Burford hit .258 with Clinton, a Padre Class-A team, in 1998. Last season, his first in the Colorado organization, he hit .306 with Class-A Portland.

WHO'S HOT

Two months into the season, and Round Rock (Houston Astros) second baseman Keith Ginter not only leads the Texas League (double-A) in batting, he has the highest batting average in the minor leagues. Ginter (Fullerton High) is hitting .404 with13 home runs and has driven in 47 runs. He is the only .400 in the minor leagues.

First baseman Craig Wilson (Marina) had three hits, including a pair of home runs, for triple-A Nashville in a 12-11 victory over Colorado Springs last Monday. Wilson hit a solo homer in the eighth and capped a three-run ninth inning with a two-run homer.

Outfielder Chris Sheff (Laguna Hills) singled home the go-ahead run in the top of the 12th inning to give triple-A Norfolk an 8-5 victory over Ottawa on May 21.

Catcher Brian Loyd (Cal State Fullerton and El Dorado High) went three for three and drove in two runs for double-A Tennessee (Toronto Blue Jays) in a 3-0 victory over Orlando Saturday. Loyd, who entered the game hitting .643 with four RBIs in his last five games, had an RBI double in the fourth and a run-scoring single in the sixth inning.

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