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VOL. 133 | NO. 137 | Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Pitcher Earns All-Star Start With Great First Half

Former Miss. State Bulldog Dakota Hudson leads PCL with 12 wins

By Don Wade

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As a high school senior in Dunlap, Tennessee, Dakota Hudson showed enough promise as a pitcher for the Texas Rangers to select him in the MLB First-Year Player Draft. And although the Rangers didn’t take him until the 36th round, Hudson says he was tempted to go.

“From a small town, family didn’t grow up with a whole lot, so yeah, the money was kind of where I was thinking,” said Hudson, who five years later is set to represent the Memphis Redbirds and start for the Pacific Coast League’s team in the Triple-A All-Star Game July 11 in Columbus, Ohio (8 p.m., MLB Network).

Hudson, 23, bypassed the Rangers’ offer in 2013 to go to Mississippi State on a baseball scholarship. He excelled, picking up multiple All-America honors as a junior. The St. Louis Cardinals then took him 34th overall in the 2016 First-Year Player Draft.

Memphis Redbirds pitcher Dakota Hudson (50), will start for the Pacific Coast League’s team in the Triple-A All-Star Game Wednesday, July 11. (Kevin Lanlgey/Cal Sport Media via AP Images)

“I felt like if went to college for a few years, it would give me a change to develop,” said Hudson, a 6-5, 215-pound right-hander. “It took me almost two seasons to just figure out how to pitch to a college hitter.”

Last year Hudson went 9-4 with a 2.53 earned run average at Double-A Springfield before being promoted to Memphis. He made seven starts in the regular season for the Redbirds and won two games in the Pacific Coast League playoffs.

This season he sits atop the PCL with 12 wins against just two losses. He has a 2.42 ERA and in 104.1 innings has allowed only one home run – an amazing feat given all the high-altitude parks in the PCL and the short leftfield fence at AutoZone Park here.

“I was told last year I was a groundball pitcher and I guess I maybe didn’t embrace that mentality as much as I have this year,” he said. “It’s actually helped my strikeout rate.”

Not that the emphasis is on strikeouts; he has 79 through 104.1 innings this year. His improved control has made his fastball more effective, his breaking pitches more of a threat to hitters.

“He’s controlling counts, inducing early contact,” said Memphis pitching coach Dernier Orozco. “That’s the big thing with him.”

Yet despite all the success, Hudson is not on the Cardinals’ 40-man roster and hasn’t been summoned to St. Louis to fill a gap with a spot start or work out of the bullpen. That could change if the Cardinals make moves before the trade deadline, but for now he has to wait.

“There’s no really nowhere to put him up there if he’s going to be a starter,” Clapp said. “He’s done a really nice job here and eventually he’s going to get a chance to shine up there, too.”

Hudson also was selected for MLB’s Futures Game on July 15 (3 p.m. MLB Network) in Washington, D.C., as part of All-Star week. Redbirds outfielder Randy Arozarena was picked for the game, too.

With the PCL All-Star Game on July 11 and then the Futures Games four days later, the Redbirds held Hudson to just four innings in his final start before the break last Sunday. His usual mindset, however, is to go as deep as possible, to “hand the ball to the closer.”

“Every time he goes out he’s looking to get better,” Orozco said. “It’s never enough for him.”

Said Clapp: “He wants to be the horse.”

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