Despite some rocky moments, Hudson feels good heading to offseason

The 2020 season did not go as planned for the Nationals on many levels. Reliever Daniel Hudson was one of those players who was never really able get rolling like he wanted to.

In 21 appearances, Hudson finished 3-2 with a 6.10 ERA and a team- and career-high 10 saves. Contrast those numbers with the 24 games he played last season when traded to the Nats. Hudson went 3-0 with a 1.44 ERA and six saves.

This year, he allowed 2.6 home runs per nine innings; last year in D.C. it was just 1.1. His walks this season were an eye-popping 4.8 per nine innings. Last year, that number was 1.4.

And, of course, his name will always be etched in the annals of Nationals lore because he recorded the final out in Game 7 of the World Series with a strikeout of the Astros' Michael Brantley, bringing a baseball title to D.C. for the first time in 95 years.

In the 2019 postseason, Hudson went 1-0 with a 3.72 ERA and four saves over nine games.

This season, Hudson had five blown saves. One that stung a lot was allowing the two-run shot to Dansby Swanson in the bottom of the ninth in Atlanta on Aug. 17, a 7-6 loss. The Nats enjoyed a 6-3 lead after a Juan Soto solo shot in the top of the ninth and needed just three outs to record a win against the first-place Braves. But facing Hudson, Adam Duvall homered before Swanson unleashed his blast. It was the first time since June 2012 that Hudson had allowed two homers in one game.

But as the season ended, Hudson got it going a bit. He didn't allow a run in his final three appearances and five of his final seven outings.

Hudson-Delivers-Gray-at-Baltimore-Sidebar.jpg"After I got a few games under my belt, I honestly feel like I was taking better stuff out there then I had at any point last year, especially recently," Hudson said via Zoom of his final numbers. "Honestly, that's the truth. I had a few bad games and blew a few saves, but it really was just one pitch here or there. The results weren't there. But results haven't been there for lots of people this year. It's just been an odd year.

"It is what it is: a small sample size. I'm not going to lose sleep over 60 games, (21) games for me. I'm going to go home knowing I went out there with my best stuff, and even though the results don't say that I had a very good year, I know that I can take some really positive stuff into the offseason and learn from it and grow from it and hopefully be better in 2021."

And as he embarks on a few months off, Hudson feels like he is in much better shape than last season, when he didn't go home until early November and his knee wasn't quite 100 percent.

"Last year, I had a bit of knee issue going into offseason, so I didn't start my offseason program until a little bit later just because I tried to rehab my knee a little bit," Hudson said. "Kind of the unknown of free agency as well. I didn't want to bother it too much. I know I'm going to be here next season. so I can go right into a normal offseason. I will see how my arm feels in a couple of weeks.

"Maybe I'll start throwing a little bit earlier than I did last year because of the extra work in October last year kind of put a toll on my arm and my body. I wanted to make sure I was fresh before I started throwing last year. This year, I might start a little bit earlier. I don't have 60 to 70 games of use on my arm this year, so maybe I can try to work out some mechanical issues a little bit earlier and try to get better for spring training."

Despite some of the rocky outings in 2020, Hudson has the right mindset for 2021. He doesn't feel like he needs a lot of extra time to heal this offseason. His body and his arm are strong, and just like Max Scherzer, he feels like he has something left in the tank.

"Knock on wood, it still feels pretty good," Hudson said. "Being able to be available every night is kind of something I pride myself on, so I was able to do that this year. Body-wise I feel pretty strong and healthy. I can take that as a positive moving into the offseason and try to get better. I've kind of told myself that I don't have a bulk of innings this year. I might not have to take as much time off this year. I can kind of go straight into my offseason routine. Hopefully, go from there and get a little bit better."

Returning to the way he was throwing at the end of 2019, especially in the regular season, is Hudson's goal for 2021. No one on the Nats wanted to go 26-34, but maybe this extra rest will help the 33-year-old hit the ground running next spring training.

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