After a gruesome ankle injury ended Tim Hudson's season last year, there were doubts about whether he could ever be the same pitcher again. Even Hudson, who is in his 16th season, didn't know what to expect out of the gate.
Instead, the Georgia native has been a pleasant surprise and a great addition to the Giants' pitching staff, racking up eight wins and a team-best 2.71 ERA. His first half was good enough to get him selected to his fourth All-Star Game.
"Things got off to a pretty good start for me," Hudson said. "I definitely can't complain about that. I've felt like outside of three or four games this year, we have had a fighting shot to win almost every game I've pitched."
Coming to San Francisco was filled with mixed emotions for the right-hander because he spent the last nine seasons with the Atlanta Braves and is from the South. However, the first six seasons of Hudson's career were spent across the Bay with the A's, so the Bay Area is a second home to him.
"Playing in San Francisco has been nice," Hudson said. "I'm familiar with the Bay Area from my first go-around with Oakland so it was in a sense a homecoming back to the Bay Area. Obviously leaving Atlanta wasn't ever an easy decision just because I've spent so much time there and I'm from the South, but the opportunity to come back to the Bay Area and play for the Giants was something way too good to turn down."
On top of being one of the more consistent pitchers throughout the season for the Giants, Hudson has also embraced the leadership role he has with the team.
"I feel like I've had some type of [leadership] role for the past seven or eight years," Hudson said. "I just want to do whatever I can to help the younger guys and help them feel comfortable up here. Whenever somebody is searching for something I want to give advice, I have an open door policy."
Tim Lincecum knows just how important it is to have another veteran presence like Hudson.
"He understands the grind and mental approach it takes to get through a long year," the Giants' two-time NL Cy Young Award winner said. "He brings a lighter side of how to deal with it and then you see the way he goes out on the field and he brings a lot of the A-game there as well."
With the season entering the final two months, Hudson admits there is some scoreboard watching starting to happen. The Giants got off to a hot start and built a nice lead in the NL West, but are now second place to the Dodgers after a forgettable June and July in which they had a record of 22-30.
"It becomes a habit around this time of year because you are competing with a number of teams," Hudson said. "Obviously first and foremost, you want to win your division. I can't say that I don't keep up with the Dodgers and some of the other teams that we are competing with."
Hudson is also giving back to the community by bringing fantasy football to AT&T Park that will benefit local charities. Giants players will captain teams of fans, who will interact weekly with players on lineup decisions. There is a $3,000 entry, with proceeds donated to the Giants Community Fund, Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area, the San Francisco Homeless Prenatal Program and Big League Impact.
"Adam Wainwright approached me with the idea of charitable fantasy football right before spring training. There are a bunch of teams involved in it now," Hudson said. "It should be a lot of fun, there's a lot of fantasy football guys in baseball."