Hudson files for free agency

Hudson files for free agency

KANSAS CITY -- Right-handed pitcher Luke Hudson is going to explore the open market, but he'd like to return to the Royals.

Hudson, taken off the Kansas City's 40-man roster, declined to take an outright assignment to Triple-A Omaha, making him a free agent on Saturday.

He missed the entire 2008 season after hardly pitching at all in '07 because of shoulder surgery.

"Obviously, not having thrown much the last two years, I thought that them taking me off the roster was imminent, that's for sure," Hudson said. "I definitely didn't warrant any roster spot after not throwing for as long as I have. So it didn't surprise one bit when it happened."

Hudson wants to see what might be available to him on the open market, but after four years in the Royals' organization, he still feels strong ties.

"I'd love to sign back with Kansas City," Hudson said. "They've been great to me, and I love the city. I love the guys and everyone in the whole organization. [I'm exploring free agency] to see what's out there and then go from there. I don't say I've got the most leverage in the world right now, but we'll see."

Left behind when the Royals broke camp in March, Hudson went through a rehabilitation process for most of the summer.

"I had that cortisone injection and started throwing again, had a setback, and by then it was the middle of July," he said.

By then it was too difficult to return in time to pitch during the season. So Hudson went home to Huntington Beach, Calif., and he has been resting his shoulder since. He hasn't thrown a baseball since July, but he's been rehabbing and is greatly encouraged.

"It's good, it's just tough to gauge it," Hudson said. "I'm giving it ample rest, and I'm not picking up a ball until the middle of December. I'll just go from there and keep my fingers crossed. I feel really strong and my range of motion is great."

Hudson, 31, was told he was the subject of frequent inquiries to the Royals mailbag.

"I fell off the face of the earth," he said. "I'm surprised people are still asking."

Fans remember Hudson because, in 2006, he became something of a sensation after signing with the Royals and joining the rotation on July 7. He started that season with the Reds, before finding a new start in Kansas City.

Hot Stove
"What a crazy year that was. Getting booed off the field at the beginning of the season and then coming back and doing all right," Hudson said. "It was kind of a roller coaster, but it definitely finished off great."

It sure did. He was 4-0 in his first six starts and finished 6-3 as a starter, although his record should have been much better. The bullpen blew six saves for him after he'd left the game with a lead.

Ironically, he's probably best remembered for a historic shellacking he took on Aug. 13, 2006, at Cleveland. He got just one out in the first inning and was hammered for 11 runs before manager Buddy Bell finally pulled him.

"Oh, man, it's funny. I still get asked about that once in a while," Hudson said.

"The question is always, 'How did Buddy leave you in that long?' They forget we had a doubleheader the day before. I was in the bullpen that year, so I know how it feels. It was toward the end of the season and guys' arms were hanging after the doubleheader. The last thing you need was for a pitcher to have a short outing, let alone one-third of an inning. I remember begging to stay in the game just to eat up some innings at that point."

That was the most runs any pitcher had given up in the first inning in 109 years -- since Sept. 21, 1897, when Boston's Kid Nichols surrendered 12 to the Brooklyn Bridegrooms.

"No matter how bad somebody's outing is, I can always bring that one up to make them feel better," Hudson said.

Obviously, Hudson's good humor is intact. Now he needs to see if his pitching arm is healthy.

"That's the goal, to get back to where I was," he said.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.