SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants started using the phrase “happy flight” a couple years ago, and few trips were more enjoyable than the one back from Kansas City after Game 7 of the World Series last October. For one key Giant, though, that flight was just as much about indecision as celebration.
Tim Hudson said he retired and then changed his mind about five times on the flight home, but there’s little chance he’ll switch it up at the end of this season. Hudson, 39, expects his 17th big league season to be his final one.
“I’m definitely leaning that way, for sure,” he said Friday.
Hudson left the door open a crack, adding that he could change his mind if he feels “really good physically, and strong” at the end of the 2015 season, but the rest of his answers Friday showed why that might be a long shot. Hudson dealt with a variety of ailments last year and had bone chips removed from his right ankle in January. He’s said to be two to three weeks behind his normal schedule as the Giants prepare for spring training.
Hudson had season-ending surgery on the same ankle in 2013 after suffering ligament damage and a fracture during a collision at first base. The bone chips were an annoyance last June, July and August, and when Hudson finally found comfort with his ankle, his hip was ailing.
“I think that was a direct result of the ankle problems,” he said. “I was favoring the ankle.”
The hip is currently pain-free. The ankle is coming along.
“The timing wasn’t great, but I’m glad it’s fixed,” Hudson said. “I’m looking at it as getting ready for Opening Day and the start of the year, not necessarily the start of spring training. Whether that’s two or five [spring training starts], I really don’t know. It’s an arm thing now. I’ve got to get my arm in shape.”
The Giants have the ability to be patient, even with fellow right-hander Matt Cain (elbow and ankle surgeries) also scheduled for extra time in the trainer’s room. With Madison Bumgarner, Jake Peavy, Tim Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong and Yusmeiro Petit also in the fold, manager Bruce Bochy has seven starters he trusts. He plans to prepare them all as starters this spring.
The Giants will let Vogelsong and Lincecum compete for a rotation spot, with one of them joining Petit in the bullpen. Bochy likes the idea of having two long relievers and he could use one of them to “piggyback” a starter who might be best served only pitching five innings or so on a particular day. That plan is contingent on the staff being healthy, and Hudson will get plenty of extra rest this spring as he prepares for the regular season.
“I’ll try to keep him off the field as much as I can, besides throwing,” Bochy said. “Once he gets his [bullpen session] or PFP [fielding drills] in we’ll try to keep him off the field. He’s been a pitcher a long time. He has shown it doesn’t take long for him to get ready.”
Hudson was still recovering from his first ankle surgery when he reported to camp last February. After posting a 3.57 ERA during the regular season, Hudson won his first ring -- an accomplishment that made the thought of retiring a lot easier to swallow. Not all of the Hudsons saw it that way, however. Kim Hudson pushed her husband to pitch another year.
“I’m starting to wonder why,” Tim said, smiling. “Usually the wives want you to retire. Mine didn’t.”