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Daniel Hudson's first game against live hitters

Daniel Hudson saw live hitters for the first time since Tommy John surgery last year, at Salt River Fields yesterday morning. Here's video of his outing, where he pitched six innings, allowing four runs on seven hits and a walk, with three strikeouts.

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This was a big step forward in Hudson's rehabilitation, and it seems to have gone pretty well by most reports. He threw 74 pitches, 54 of those for strikes, and just for good measure, threw 10 pitches in the bullpen afterward. Kevin Towers gave the following eye-witness report: "He threw well. He gave up a few runs, but his velocity was 91-95. He was 92-93 pretty consistently. His delivery looked good. He had good location with all of his pitches and he got better as the outing went with his slider and his change-up. Mechanically, looks very sound and he’s probably ready to go out and face a little better competition."

It appears that the next step is for Hudson to start a rehab assignment in Double-A Mobile. Towers told KTAR this afternoon that this could start "next week some time, if he feels good tomorrow.," with Tuesday being a possibility. Towers went on to say "If there's no hiccups and the arm feels good, he'll probably have at least a start or two in Double-A." There is no timetable for the return, and it will still be taken gently, and all depends on how Hudson's arm reacts to ramping up the intensity. Towers said he would like to see Hudson throw 100+ pitches on several occasions before getting him back yp to the big-leagues.

At that point, a potentially difficult decision would have to be made: who does Hudson replace in the rotation? Patrick Corbin and Trevor Cahill have both been pitching solidly, and Brandon McCarthy appears to have turned a corner in May. In terms of sheer peformance, that would seem to leave it between Ian Kennedy and Wade Miley. and the former was the Opening Day starter. Miley has definitely struggled of late and has minor-league options, so at this point, it would seem that he is the most likely occupant of the hot seat. However, we're still likely a month or so away from any decision having to be made - and McCarthy will tell you, a lot can change in a month.

Said Towers, "We'll have to figure out what we do. At that point in time, hopefully all of our starters are throwing good and it makes it a tough decision, but it's nice to have the depth." There's no need to rush, considering our team's rotation has been a strength so far, with an ERA of 3.50 which, going into play today, was good enough for fourth best in the National League. That's a sharp improvement from the 12th-place it ranked last year, or even the ninth we ranked in 2011, when we won the division. You have to go back to 2008 to find the Diamondbacks ranked as highly over an entire season, when they also finished fourth.

But, for now, let's just enjoy the site of Hudson back on the mound, pitching as he should.