Dakota Hudson was widely expected to miss this season after undergoing Tommy John, but the Cardinals right-hander could return after all.
When St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Dakota Hudson underwent Tommy John surgery in late September 2020, the expectation was that he would miss the entire 2021 season and return in 2022. But there is a “slim but real chance” he could return late this season, according to Jeff Jones of the Belleville News, who adds that Hudson has been working out at the teams spring training complex in Jupiter, Florida.
It would be one of the quickest returns from Tommy John surgery in recent history, with MLB Trade Rumors noting that recoveries typically are closer to 14 months. But even if Hudson returns, and there are no guarantees he does, it remains to be seen just how effective he would be.
It would be borderline impossible for Hudson to step into the rotation. He needs to build up his arm and is unlikely to be able to to pitch more than one inning, so he would appear primed for a spot in the bullpen. Even then, that’s something the Cardinals could use more of as the bullpen has dealt with injuries, most notably to All-Star reliever Jordan Hicks who was locked in as the eighth inning guy behind Alex Reyes.
But the possibility of Hudson returning should not stop the Cardinals from pursuing a bullpen arm at the deadline. There will be some good starters available, such as Jose Berrios and possibly Shane Bieber, though there will be a surplus of bullpen arms available and some teams may prefer to stockpile their bullpens rather than add mid-level rotation arms.
The fact that Hudson has progressed to facing live hitters, as he revealed on Instagram, is a promising sign though that he could return this season. For a Cardinals team whose pitching staff has been decimated by injuries, they sure could use Hudson — even if he is on a strict pitch count.