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Hudson promises to bring passion, intensity to Giants

Veteran right-hander welcomes the challenge of new team, overcoming injury

SAN FRANCISCO -- Warren Spahn, Goose Gossage and Steve Carlton pitched for the Giants toward the end of their Hall of Fame careers. So did future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson and All-Star closer Dan Quisenberry.

But with the possible exception of Johnson, who posted an above-.500 record and as a Giant won his 300th game in 2009, none of these excellent pitchers distinguished himself in San Francisco.

Tim Hudson intends to make sure that his Giants tenure doesn't become that kind of afterthought.

The 205-game winner, who ended his foray into free agency by signing a two-year, $23 million contract with San Francisco, vowed to sustain the passion that has helped him thrive for 15 Major League seasons.

Hudson, 38, welcomes the challenge of overcoming the fractured right ankle that ended his 2013 season after 21 starts.

"Not only to get back on the field but to perform at a high level," Hudson said during a conference call on Tuesday. "That's the one thing that I've taken pride in. I've never wanted to be and never will be a guy who just went out there [to] go through the motions and tried to get by."

Assuming Hudson returns at full strength, which appears to be a safe assumption, Bay Area fans should have no trouble recognizing the right-hander who launched his career with the A's (1999 to 2004).

"I feel like I still go out there and bring the same intensity now that I did 15 years ago when I first came to the league," he said. "I feel that's something that you're born with, and hopefully, it never fades."

Though Hudson acknowledged that his velocity has diminished slightly, he still relies on his hard split-finger fastball. But it's hardly his lone asset.

"From a repertoire standpoint, if you pitch long enough in this league, you'll have to reinvent yourself a time or two," he said. "I've become more of a complete pitcher now. I throw a curveball and a cutter and a changeup and a split, a sinker. I throw some four-seam fastballs up in the zone. When I came up, I was more sinker-split-changeup, [with] an occasional breaking ball."

The $11.5 million average annual value of Hudson's contract exceeded what the Braves, with whom he spent nine seasons, reportedly were willing to pay him, but money wasn't the only factor in his return to the West Coast. Hudson said that his family embraced the prospect of spending summers in northern California; his daughters, Kennedie and Tess, were born here during his Oakland stint.

"I look at it as an opportunity for my family to experience something different," said Hudson, who grew up in Georgia rooting for the Braves.

However, Hudson indicated that he preferred to avoid changing leagues as he searched for a new baseball home.

"They're still in the National League," he said of the Giants with a tone of satisfaction.

He also expressed an appreciation of the approach of Giants management, saying, "They do everything they can to win."

That strategy included signing Hudson, a three-time All-Star who has finished among the top six in Cy Young Award voting four times. General manager Brian Sabean was not pleased by the starters' 4.37 ERA -- the NL's third highest -- last season.

"I think it shows that we mean business to get to where we need to get back to, which is a pitching staff everybody can be proud of," Sabean said.

Sabean observed that Hudson was on a "really short primary list" of free-agent starters, though he wasn't the Giants' sole option. Hudson and a few others -- likely Bronson Arroyo and Dan Haren -- remained after the Giants eliminated the trio who received one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offers from their previous clubs: Hiroki Kuroda, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana. Sabean also eliminated pitchers reportedly seeking three- or four-year deals, such as Matt Garza and Ricky Nolasco.

The Giants still need depth for their rotation and hope to re-sign right-hander Ryan Vogelsong, who became a free agent when the club declined the $6.5 million option on his 2014 contract.

"We are in play with Vogelsong," Sabean said, adding that the Giants are considering alternatives.

"We have a lot of feelers out, a lot of good conversations out other than Vogey's possible return," said Sabean, who noted that he'd prefer to sign another starter sooner than later "because I think it's going to be a real competitive market."

Sabean hinted that the Giants might succeed in retaining Javier Lopez, who has drawn interest from at least 10 teams as perhaps the top left-handed reliever in free agency. The Giants, said Sabean, are "fully engaged" with Lopez.

"Hopefully, we'll have him signed soon enough," he said.

Finding a proven hitter to play left field, an unproductive offensive position for the Giants last season, might not be so easy.

"I think that's going to have to play out over time," Sabean said, pointing out the scarcity of qualified free-agent outfielders aside from Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo. Sabean implied that trade possibilities could develop later in the offseason.

Chris Haft is a reporter for Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat.
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