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SAN FRANCISCO – It was an emotional decision for Tim Hudson. How could it be otherwise?
He was leaving his home in the Georgia pines. He had the opportunity to come back to the place where he started his big league career. He would be uprooting his family, yet also moving back to the faraway state where his daughters were born.
In the end, it became clear. Hudson would return to the Bay Area.
But which side of the Bay? That’s where pragmatism trumped emotion. That’s why Hudson chose the Giants over returning to the A’s.
“Billy Beane is a great man,” said Hudson, on a conference call to announce his two-year, $23 million contract. “I considered him a friend more than a boss when I was out there. There was interest from Oakland and honestly, it was one of those things that can get emotional for you when you think about going back to the team you started with. They have a great team and Billy’s done an awesome job putting together a winning ballclub. It was challenging.
“But you have to look at all the factors in play, and San Francisco was a place that felt right.”
Staying in the National League was important to Hudson. So was winning a World Series, and the Giants placed ring orders more recently. It was apparent to Hudson that the Giants were very, very serious about putting him in orange and black.
And yes, the stadium situation was a factor on some level, too.
“It’s a place a lot of opponents envy, the atmosphere and the way the fans support the team,” Hudson said of AT&T Park. “It was something I was excited to be a part of once I realized the ball was rolling. I can’t wait to get out there and help us win every fifth day. I’ll do what I can to help this team win and in the locker room and in the community.
“It was a pretty easy decision when it came down to the nuts and bolts. It’s hard to say there was a close 2 or 3.”
Hudson could be a 2 or a 3 in any rotation. It almost doesn’t matter where the Giants slot him, because he represents an ideal fit alongside fellow Southerners Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner, and another undersized right-hander, Tim Lincecum.
“We had a lot of meaningful and serious meetings about how we wanted to rebuild our pitching staff, and as we developed our list, we wanted to see if we could get him to leave the comforts of Atlanta,” Giants GM Brian Sabean said. “To have him in our staff shows we mean business to get back to where ne need to get back to, and that’s having a pitching staff we can be proud of.”
Hudson, 38, had surgery last week to remove a stabilizing screw from his ankle, which he fractured while covering first base on July 25. Hudson expects to ramp up his rehab work in the coming days, and said he has enough time to do all his usual throwing to be in shape for the start of spring training. Passing the physical was the last box to check.
“To get Tim, who was one of the most highly sought pitchers out there, I couldn’t be more thrilled,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “He not only brings great experience for us but he’s a winner. So for him to choose us, we’re honored and I look forward to working with him.”
Hudson wore No. 15 in Atlanta. That’s Bochy’s number. And while Hudson probably doesn’t know this, the manager might be superstitious about giving it up. Last time he did that, for Carlos Beltran, it didn’t go so well.
“Looks like I’ll have to change,” Hudson said.
Change is part of baseball, and Hudson noted wistfully that he’s essentially replacing a former A’s “Big Three” teammate, Barry Zito, in the Giants rotation. Hudson and Zito exchanged texts on Monday; the left-hander also provided counsel as Hudson waded through his free-agent options.
“I texted him, 'I wish you could be here with me,’” Hudson said. “The game is what it is. Chapters open and close. He was a great guy and great teammate in Oakland and I’m sure everybody would say the same thing about him here.”
They’ve said the same things about Hudson wherever he’s gone while racking up those 205 victories, the most among active pitchers. (He’s eager to get his first at Coors Field, though.)
How has Hudson changed since he broke in with the A’s?
“You pitch long enough in this league, you’ll have to reinvent yourself a time or two,” said Hudson, who went from a sinker-split-changeup pitcher to more of a sinker-cutter-curve repertoire. “I don’t think my velocity has dropped too much over the span of 15 years, but I feel I’m a smarter pitcher and I have a better idea of how to attack hitters and exploit their weaknesses. When you’re younger, you get people out with your rough stuff.
“I feel I still go out there and bring the same intensity I did 15 years ago when I first came to the league. That’s something you’re born with and it never fades.”