Advertisement

BASEBALL

The stars aligned right for Dodgers' Orlando Hudson

Not many predicted he'd be in the All-Star game after his surgically repaired wrist scared off so many teams in the off-season.

July 14, 2009|Dylan Hernandez

Orlando Hudson was packing his bags when he heard someone shout to him from across the Dodgers' clubhouse.

The voice belonged to Matt Kemp, who told him to hit a home run.

"From both sides," James Loney chimed in. "And make a diving catch."

Hudson smiled.

That he would receive this kind of send-off as the Dodgers went into the All-Star break was unthinkable to almost everyone in baseball 4 1/2 months ago.

For Hudson's surgically repaired wrist to hold up this long was considered a longshot, which is why most teams stayed away from him last winter when he was a free agent.

For him to be at Busch Stadium in St. Louis tonight for the All-Star game? Put it this way: The Dodgers signed him to an incentive-laden contract this spring guaranteed for only $3.38 million.

Hudson isn't the only Dodger in St. Louis today who erased major doubts over the first half of the season.

Chad Billingsley and Jonathan Broxton did the same, answering questions about whether they were ready to become the Dodgers' ace and closer, respectively. They did that and more, earning All-Star selections for the first times in their careers. (Broxton will miss today's game because of a toe injury.)

Drafted by the Dodgers and raised in their farm system, Billingsley and Broxton were long considered the future ace and closer of the franchise. They had the stuff, no doubt.

But Manager Joe Torre recently acknowledged that when they reported to camp this year, he wasn't sure where they were mentally.

Torre said he was concerned about how Billingsley ended last season with two brutal losses to Philadelphia in the National League Championship Series.

Not only was Billingsley hit hard -- he gave up 11 runs in five innings over his two starts -- but he also came under fire for not protecting teammates who thought they were thrown at by Phillies pitcher Brett Myers.

A broken leg suffered in the winter further clouded Billingsley's immediate future.

"That's why we talked about it in the spring with him," Torre said. "The thing that I felt good about when we had that conversation was that he was very honest about how it was a tough winter for him."

Broxton inherited the role as closer last July when Takashi Saito went down because of an elbow injury, but Torre said he sensed a certain level of trepidation in him.

"The thing I noticed about Brox is that last year he was sort of in between," Torre said. "Maybe the fact that Saito was there and it really wasn't his job. He was just tending to it."

Billingsley and Broxton answered the calls.

Billingsley won his first six starts. On May 14, he returned to the site of his playoff nightmare, firing seven innings of one-run ball in a 5-3 victory for the Dodgers in Philadelphia.

"I felt I was pretty consistent pitching," he said. "Even on days I didn't have my good stuff, I gave the team a chance to win."

He said the key is to try to limit damage and not try to be perfect.

"Especially with this lineup," Billingsley said. "There are times the offense might be struggling, but if you keep them within striking distance, you have a chance."

Broxton said playing in the World Baseball Classic prepared him for the emotional rigors of the season.

"It let me compete at a high level," Broxton said. "I started playing a little more competitive sooner. I had more time to prepare."

Broxton is 6-0 with a 3.10 earned-run average and has converted 20 of 22 save opportunities.

"This spring, he just grabbed the thing and went with it," Torre said.

So did Hudson, who dislocated his left wrist last season. The player who could barely find work this spring hit for the cycle in his first game at Dodger Stadium and went into the All-Star break hitting .283 despite getting only five hits in his last 43 at-bats.

He also has improved the Dodgers' defense and has helped the team win several close games, Torre said.

"Did I think it was going to happen?" Hudson said of his All-Star selection. "I'm not going to answer that question right now."

But he said he was certain of something.

"Anything's possible," he said. "If somebody tells you that anything's impossible, you have to be like, 'I don't know where you got that from.' Anything's possible."

--

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|