LOS ANGELES ― Daniel Hudson’s emotional return to the Dodger Stadium mound was actually an emotional exit.
The veteran pitcher suffered a right MCL sprain on the 28th of his 29 pitches in the ninth inning of Wednesday night’s 6-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. There is no timetable for his return, Dave Roberts said, and the manager would only venture to say he is “hopeful” Hudson can return this season.
“I just can’t put into words how frustrating, how disappointing this is for him,” Roberts said of Hudson. “It’s going to be quite some time (before Hudson returns). He gutted it out. I don’t know how he made those last two pitches.”
Hudson began the ninth inning of the two-run game by allowing a double and walking two batters to load the bases. He struck out Henry Davis, retired Carlos Santana on a medium-shallow fly ball, then struck out Jack Suwinski on an 86-mph slider in the dirt to strand all three runners.
Hudson was credited with his first major league save since June 8, 2022.
“I know the grind, and what he’s gone through,” Roberts said of Hudson. “You feel like an outcast when you’re not around. You feel ‘why am I doing this, is it worth it?’ You finally get to a point where you’ve gotten back and the highest of highs of getting a save. Then to fall back, when the adrenaline settles in and you realize that you’re back on the IL and going to be missing a significant amount of time, my heart breaks for him.”
The 36-year-old right-hander only appeared in three games after completing his rehab from a left knee injury that ended his 2022 season prematurely. His arrival was highly anticipated for a Dodger bullpen that began Thursday with a 4.47 ERA, 24th in Major League Baseball.
Coincidentally, right-hander Yency Almonte was placed on the paternity list Thursday to attend the birth of his first child. Right-hander Brusdar Graterol is also dealing with a shoulder issue, Roberts said.
The severity of an MCL tear comes with a wide range of possible timetables for return. For a Grade 3 tear – the most severe sprain someone can incur without needing surgery – the typical estimate for rehabilitation is at least six weeks.
A six-week timetable would have Hudson in rehab until the middle of August, but there are mitigating factors. He was already dealing with soreness in his left knee after each outing, a remnant of the left ACL tear that required season-ending surgery in June 2022.
“I think we have plenty of rehab and therapy equipment to get me through” the season, Hudson said Monday.
Now, the Dodgers will have to make do – again – without one of their best high-leverage right-handed relievers. They are considering activating pitcher Noah Syndergaard from the injured list to provide some reinforcement for their two-game series against the Angels.
Syndergaard hasn’t pitched since June 7 and hasn’t appeared out of the bullpen in a major league game since Game 4 of last year’s National League Championship Series with the Philadelphia Phillies. He was 1-4 with a 7.16 ERA in 12 starts this season before landing on the IL with a finger blister.
Left-hander Alex Vesia and right-hander Nick Robertson were recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City to replace Hudson and Almonte on the active roster.
The bullpen’s need for help was matched only by Hudson’s determination to be part of the solution.
“He was committed to coming back this year,” Roberts said of Hudson. “He could’ve walked away last year, committed to coming back. For it to end right now the way it did, it hurts.”
Right-hander Jimmy Nelson, on a rehab assignment with Triple-A OKC, doesn’t appear to be a candidate to be activated this weekend. “The stuff, getting the stuff where it needs to be, to be major league ready and serviceable, we haven’t quite gotten there yet,” Roberts said. … The Dodgers brought Landon Knack up to the taxi squad. The 25-year-old prospect had a 3.29 ERA in three starts at Triple-A since his promotion in June. Roberts said Knack would join the bullpen as a possible long reliever only if Graterol was placed on the IL.
Angels (RHP Griffin Canning, 6-3, 4.29 ERA) at Dodgers (RHP Tony Gonsolin, 4-3, 3.69 ERA), Friday, 7:10 p.m., SportsNet LA, Bally Sports West, 570 AM, 830 AM