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Hudson's rapid rise impresses White Sox

Hudson's rapid rise impresses White Sox

CHICAGO -- If it seems like only yesterday that White Sox rookie Daniel Hudson was breaking into professional baseball at its lowest level as a pitching prospect ...

... Well, that's because it's pretty darn close to yesterday.

In the span of just one season, Hudson has made a somewhat absurd leap from the entry-level ranks of pro ball to the apex of the sport. He began in the spring of 2009 with Kannapolis, the low Class A team in the White Sox organization. Now, he finds himself right in the thick of a Major League pennant race, trying to help the White Sox to an American League Central title out of the bullpen.

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Along the way, Hudson never spent more than a month and a half with any one team.

"I didn't really have any expectations on moving up this many times, but I just tried to go out there, pitch as well as I could and try to give them a reason to bring me up," said Hudson, a 6-foot-4, 22-year-old right-hander.

"Luckily, I've been able to do that at every level, and they've been pretty aggressive with me. I'm pretty happy with that."

Hudson made pit stops with four different teams while being used exclusively as a starting pitcher this year in his quest to reach the big leagues and his fifth team of the season.

There was the stop in Kannapolis to pitch in four games. A trek to high Class A Winston Salem for eight contests followed. Then came the move for nine games to Double-A Birmingham, where Hudson really began to draw the attention of the big league club.

He went 7-0 with a 1.60 ERA for Birmingham, one of four White Sox Minor League affiliates, the most of any big league team, to make the postseason. Those numbers were so impressive that Hudson made his way to Triple-A Charlotte for five starts, going 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA.

And suddenly, Hudson realized he might just have a shot at making the big league roster.

"I had a really good streak of nine games straight in Double-A when I was throwing really well," Hudson said. "Probably the best I've ever thrown. I just started hearing my name come up in conversations of getting a spot start. That's probably when it started sinking in that I'm only one call away. So, it's pretty crazy."

In total, Hudson went 14-5 with a 2.32 ERA in 26 Minor League appearances this season, which all helped lead to his promotion to the White Sox as a September callup. He made his debut on Sept. 4 against the Boston Red Sox, throwing two innings of scoreless relief with one strikeout -- a far cry from the beginning of the season, when Hudson was throwing against the likes of the Kinston Indians and the Potomac Nationals.

In 4 1/3 innings of big league work overall, he has allowed two runs on five hits with three strikeouts.

Hudson, a fifth-round selection by the White Sox in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, said his path to the big leagues this season was not necessarily the smoothest, both away from and inside the clubhouse.

He rented an apartment while with Winston Salem but moved out almost as soon as he moved in thanks to a promotion. In Birmingham, he slept on a buddy's air mattress in an apartment living room, which lasted all of six weeks before yet another promotion. And in Charlotte, he opted for extended-stay hotel lodging, living out of a suitcase while not knowing exactly how long he would be there.

Good thing, too. He remained with Charlotte for all of three weeks before his final callup of the season to Chicago.

As a result of his rapid ascension, Hudson said he had not been able to form many tight bonds in the various '09 clubhouses.

"It's been kind of difficult getting comfortable with different guys and different locker rooms," Hudson said. "Luckily, everybody in the organization has been awesome and real accepting, even though I've been one of the younger guys at each of the higher levels."

In Chicago, teammates already seem to have taken a liking to him, although Hudson's arrival also has come with the occasional ribbing.

"It's pretty cool," White Sox reliever Matt Thornton said. "I was giving [it] to him [last week] about, 'Way to really stay strong through all the tough times in the Minor Leagues you had.' It took him a year. But he's throwing the ball well. He's done a good job up here."

White Sox reliever D.J. Carrasco said that even though Hudson is just 22, his Minor League performances made him deserving of the swift promotions.

"It's just weird having a guy that's 10 years younger than me," Carrasco said. "He's a big boy, so you kind of don't realize he's 22 years old down there. Hopefully, he can open up some eyes and stick around and get a lot of playing time in the big leagues."

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen should have plenty of say in whether that comes to fruition. While Guillen has been impressed with Hudson thus far, he said his biggest concern is monitoring Hudson's innings. Hudson threw 147 1/3 innings during his stints with four Minor League clubs, meaning Hudson's biggest opportunity to make an impression may not come until next Spring Training.

"I don't want to overuse this kid," Guillen said. "But I think it's great. I think, right now, our organization is moving quicker than they did in the past."

While Hudson said he was glad to get innings as a late-season callup with the White Sox, he has set some different goals for 2010.

Hudson, for one, would like to make the Major League club out of Spring Training. And maybe actually stick around for a while in Chicago as a more permanent resident.

"Hopefully," Hudson said. "We'll see what happens. This game will humble you really quick. You could go out there and be lights-out one time and then go three straight starts and just get lit up. I don't want to have anything too permanent because you get let down sometimes. I just want to go out there and do as well as I can and hopefully I'll be here for good next year."

Jesse Temple is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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