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Hudson keeps head up as LA reserve

Hudson keeps head up as LA reserve

LOS ANGELES -- Orlando Hudson made the All-Star team this year, but he couldn't make the Dodgers' starting lineup for Wednesday's Game 1 of the National League Division Series against the Cardinals.

Manager Joe Torre went with the hot hand, naming Ronnie Belliard to start at second base. And Hudson saw it coming as Belliard increasingly took playing time from him in September until straining a groin muscle the final week of the regular season.

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Dodgers at a glance
2009 record: 95-67
2008 record: 84-78
NL West champs
NL best record
NLCS matchup:
Phillies at Dodgers
Postseason tix: Buy now

WHO ARE THESE GUYS?
Loney: Taking good swings
Kuo: Long road back
Thome: Back in Philly
Loney: Building resume
Bullpen: Led by Broxton
Torre: Rep precedes him
Blake: Chemistry guy
Kershaw: Game 1 nod?
Dodgers: Eyes on prize
Kemp: Path of the pros
Furcal: Back healthy
Kershaw: Like Koufax
Hudson: Keeping head up
Billingsley: Unknown role
Ethier: Slump over
Torre: Tough decisions
Kershaw: Elite comparisons
Kemp: Nearly elite
Kershaw: Path to the pros
Billingsley: Fate in balance
Ethier: Aims to improve
Torre: Back to playoffs
Kershaw: Ready to rock
Rotation: Plenty of options
Kemp: Chasing LA history
Bullpen: Dominant pair
Honeycutt: Pitching guru
Kemp: Tools to match talent
Ethier: Walk-off wonder
Billingsley: Vying for spot
Ethier/Kemp: Dynamic duo
Torre: Another pennant race
Pierre: Receives high praise
Kershaw: Beyond his years

But Hudson didn't earn a reputation as a great clubhouse presence by focusing on himself. When he got the news, he took the high road, even though it's a likely indicator that as a free agent he won't be back next year.

"You've got to brush it off. That's all you can do," he said. "Whatever my role will be, that's what I'll do. If it's just play defense the last couple innings, that's what it will be. I have no problem with it. Ronnie's a great guy and a great teammate."

Hudson knows one when he sees one because he's universally considered one. He worked incredibly hard over the winter to recover from a horrible wrist injury that put his career in jeopardy. He taught himself how to retain his Gold Glove defensive ability even though he lost significant range of motion in his left wrist. He surprised the Dodgers by being ready to play every day by Opening Day.

Ultimately, Torre believes he might have overused Hudson in those early months, but how could he do anything else? With a make-good contract loaded with performance incentives, Hudson fought to play every inning. He hit .337 in April and .328 in May but .222 in June. He got a second wind with a .295 average in August, but sagged again to .227 the final month.

Hudson finished with a .283 average, playing 149 games, setting a personal best with 35 doubles and is a strong contender for a fourth Gold Glove, having committed only eight errors. He fell only $10,000 short of reaching all $4.62 million of the incentives that were put in his contract because nobody knew if he'd be healthy enough to play a full season.

"I'm already proud of this year," Hudson said. "It's all good. Joe's the manager and he's going to do whatever he sees fit to do. I guess I should have hit .490 the whole season. I did play good enough to make the All-Star team. Of course, I'd prefer to play. But what went wrong? I'm not looking for an answer.

Division Series
Gm. 1LAD 5, STL 3WrapVideo
Gm. 2LAD 3, STL 2WrapVideo
Gm. 3LAD 5, STL 1WrapVideo

"You can't break me. God keeps me strong. I can't get angry, he's got bigger plans. I learned that from my mom and grandma. They taught me you shake off this kind of stuff and keep going and you do the best you can do."

Nonetheless, it figures to be a blow to Hudson, who is second only to Game 1 starter Randy Wolf among Dodgers for service time without playing in the postseason (7 1/2 seasons). Hudson was a member of Arizona's 2007 NL West champions, but suffered a season-ending hand injury Sept. 10 that required surgery.

"It was hard watching the guys go out, having battled with them the whole year," he said. "Hopefully, I'll still get a chance to help us win a game."

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

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