PHOENIX -- A smile crossed Bruce Bochy's face as he thought of the possibility. He knows Tim Hudson has insisted for months that this is his final season, and he knows that Hudson has had such a rough go at times that Bochy had the make the difficult choice to pull him out of the rotation.
But man, during a stretch like this, with the division slipping away day by day, Bochy sure loves thinking about another year spent with Hudson. After the veteran pitched six strong and hit a surprise homer in a 6-2 win over the Diamondbacks, Bochy grinned and said the night might change the 40-year-old's mind.
"He found the fountain of youth today," Bochy said.
Minutes later, Hudson reiterated that he knows he can't swim in that water for much longer.
"This is definitely my last year, for sure," he said. "It's the right thing to do, it's the right time for me and my family. I've played this game a lot longer than I thought I would."
[INSTANT REPLAY: Hudson homers, pitches Giants past D'backs]
This is the 17th year in the big leagues for Hudson, who signed his first contract in 1997. It's his second season with the Giants, and although it's been a disappointing one for player and team, all involved were able to sit back Tuesday night and enjoy a night that wasn't about the big picture and the end that's coming soon. Forget the Dodgers, the Cubs and the Odd Year. This night was about Tim Hudson, the winningest active pitcher in the big leagues. He looked as good as he ever has in orange and black, and his homer was his first in two years and just the fourth of his career. The pitching line delighted Bochy. The solo shot brought joy to an entire dugout.
"They love the guy. They love Huddy," Bochy said. "They appreciate him. He's one of those guys everybody just loves to be around. When he hit the homer, it had the whole dugout laughing."
Joe Panik smiled hours later and shook his head as he talked about how impressive the homer was "for a guy of his age." Hunter Pence raced across the dugout to give Hudson a hug. Matt Duffy laughed with Bochy on the top step. Madison Bumgarner, one of Hudson's closest friends, was waiting with a big smile on his face.
"I don't think anyone in the dugout was pulling harder for me than him," Hudson said of Bumgarner.
This was Hudson's first start since July 26, and he said he hasn't taken batting practice in about two months. The homer came in his first at-bat Tuesday and sparked a five-run inning.
"BP is a little overrated," Hudson cracked. "I'm starting to find out it messes my swing up."
For as much fun as that moment was for Hudson and his teammates, Bochy was just as proud of the right-hander's work on the mound. He felt giving Hudson another shot in the rotation was the right thing to do, but nobody involved saw this coming. Against a tough lineup, in a hitter's park, Hudson allowed just four hits and one run.
"I tell you what, that was really, really impressive," Bochy said. "With the long delay and wait he had to get a start, he wasn't stretched out, to go out there with that kind of stuff and that far -- and he could have gone further -- it just tells you a lot about the man. I couldn't be happier for him. He's been such a great teammate."
Hudson's teammates will get at least one more shot to appreciate him. Asked if Hudson would get another start, Bochy gave a quick answer.
"He's not going anywhere right now," he said. "That was vintage Huddy. He pitched like a 25-year-old tonight."
Bochy enjoyed Barry Zito's final month in 2013 and he even found a way to give Zito a memorable farewell appearance out of the bullpen. You can bet that the Giants will talk about lining Hudson up to start in Oakland later this month, allowing him to finish where he started. This is how they do things, and it might be the best plan for Hudson anyway. He's a member of the rotation again, but not every night will be like this one. Asked about his health, Hudson smiled and pointed out that "health is a relative term."
That's one of the reasons he's ready to retire. His body, in so many different places, has started to fail him. A 162-game season is probably too much to ask at this point, and Hudson, a proud husband and father, will be happy to go home this offseason and spend more time with his family. Tuesday night was special, but it wasn't enough to have him rethinking retirement. You'd have to change the rules for that to become realistic at this point.
"If there was a 10-man rotation out there somewhere," Hudson said, smiling, "I think I'd be pretty good."