PHOENIX -- Daniel Hudson took the mound as a starter in a big league game like he had dozens of times before, but this time, it represented much more than just another outing.
The long-awaited start against the Padres was another opportunity to show how far he has come since being derailed by two Tommy John surgeries, but it also helped provide some insight into how the right-hander will eventually fit into the organization's long-term plans.
Could Hudson return to the rotation one day or is he best suited as a reliever? Is Hudson a closer in the making? After all, he's already thrown 11 1/3 innings out of the bullpen this season.
Here's what we know: Hudson is healthy and on Sunday, he was effective in his first start since 2012. For now, that is good enough for the D-backs.
"We talk about that a lot, what his future is and we've really tried to not get too far out in the future and just keep him healthy," D-backs manager Chip Hale said. "He could be a starter next year, he could be a setup man, he could be a closer. As long as he is healthy and feels strong going into next season, I think we can decide on that with his input, of course."
Hudson struck out four of the first six batters he faced in Arizona's 2-1 victory. He pitched three scoreless innings, but ran into trouble in the fourth when he walked Wil Myers, gave up a single to Justin Upton and walked Will Venable to load the bases with the D-backs up, 2-0. He would not face another hitter.
"It felt great coming in. I didn't really know what to expect," Hudson said. "I was just trying to keep my emotions in check and keep the team in the ball game, throw strikes early on and try to set the tone from the beginning."
Really appreciate all the nice messages! You guys are awesome. Pumped we got the W. Bullpen dominated after me! #GoDbacks
Hudson retired the side in order to start the game and struck out former D-backs outfielder Upton to start the second. Venable followed with a single, but Hudson responded to strike out Jedd Gyorko and retire Alexi Amarista to end the frame.
The right-hander retired all three batters he faced in the third inning, including a strikeout of Cory Spangenberg for the second time.
Hudson admitted to being tired in the fourth. In all, he threw 56 pitches in the outing.
"I had not thrown more than 40 pitches in an outing all year so going out for the fourth I felt fine warming up, but I fell behind the first guy and I could tell I was getting tired," Hudson said. "I just tried to battle through it."
J.C. Ramirez, who was called up from Triple-A Reno earlier in the day, replaced Hudson with the bases loaded in the fourth. Ramirez would go on to earn his first career victory.
"I've always said I wanted to get back there eventually, whether that's good or bad for my arm, I really have no clue," Hudson said of returning to the starting rotation. "It's a good step in the right direction. I'll just take this as a positive and go from there. Whenever they need for me to go again like that later in the season, I hope I'm on the top of that list."
Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.