KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Daniel Hudson made his long-awaited return to the big leagues and the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night, ending an odyssey for the veteran right-hander that began with torn ligaments in his left knee and included several setbacks in his recovery.
Hudson officially rejoined the club about 30 minutes before first pitch in the opener of a three-game series in Kansas City.
The 36-year-old Hudson hurt his ACL just over a year ago in the eighth inning of a win over Atlanta. Hudson got a groundout to start the inning before Ronald Acuña Jr. sent a grounder down the third-base line, and Hudson tried to reverse direction after his delivery had carried him toward first base. His knee locked up and Hudson went to the ground in pain.
The Dodgers hoped that Hudson would recover in time for opening day, but lingering pain in the knee combined with tendinitis in his right ankle kept him on the bench. He received a cortisone injection and restarted the build-up near the end of May.
“The timing is perfect,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “We’ll give him three months to go hard and pick us up.”
To clear roster space, the Dodgers optioned Nick Robertson to Triple-A Oklahoma City and designated fellow right-hander Ricky Vanasco for assignment. Robertson had a 7.04 ERA in six games while Vanasco was acquired from Texas earlier this month.
The Dodgers, who began the day two games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West, already have a dominant closer in Evan Phillips, who is 1-2 with a 1.97 ERA and 11 saves in 12 chances across 32 innings. So while Hudson did have a 2.22 ERA with five saves in 24 1/3 innings last season, the veteran reliever could be headed for a setup role out of the Los Angeles bullpen.
He also could be headed for a leadership role there. Hudson has made 479 appearances with seven clubs over 13 seasons.
“He’s just another adult in the pen,” Roberts said. “He’s been battle-tested. He has a good heart rate. He gets righties and lefties out. He’s got the respect of everyone in the pen and on the club. He’s certainly a huge addition.”
In other news, three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw did not throw a bullpen session but instead plans to play catch Saturday with the expectation that he makes his next scheduled start Monday against Pittsburgh.
Kershaw, who is 10-4 with a 2.55 ERA, carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning before leaving his start Tuesday in Colorado after 79 pitches. He only allowed one hit in the eventual 5-0 win, but Kershaw said afterward that he was feeling some tenderness in his shoulder, and he ultimately had a shot Wednesday to relieve inflammation.
“Regardless of the last couple of days, he was going to pitch on Monday,” Roberts said. “That’s the plan as it stands right now.”
Dodgers’ Daniel Hudson returns just over a year after ACL tear