"It's been an unbelievable Spring Training," Hudson said. "After last year, to get a fresh start with a new team is the best thing that could have happened to me. These guys went through a rough time last year -- so did I -- so maybe we can all have a better year this time."
Hudson, who turns 28 next month, has made five appearances for Kansas City this spring and has given up one run in six innings. He's allowed five hits and two walks while striking out four.
Hudson has a good arm, but his career path has been beset by injuries and periods of inconsistency. He underwent shoulder surgery in 2003, and after going 4-2 with a 2.42 ERA during the final two months of the 2004 season, Hudson seemed on his way and was expected to begin the 2005 season in Cincinnati's rotation.
Instead, Hudson began the season on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation. He didn't come back until June, and he struggled upon his return. Hudson finally got going in August (4-1, 3.64 ERA), only to backslide in September, when he was demoted to the bullpen.
"I didn't have my velocity and I didn't have my command, and when you don't have those two things, you're in trouble," Hudson said. "Last year was a year I would like to forget, personally. I was terrible."
The Reds sent Hudson to the Arizona Fall League, where he was 0-1 with 6.58 ERA in six starts, but after he came down with back spasms in Spring Training, the Reds decided it was time to part ways with him.
Now healthy and throwing the ball well, Hudson is looking forward to the new year with his new team.
"This is the best I've felt since before I had the surgery," Hudson said.
Valdez dealt to Dodgers: The Royals traded infielder Wilson Valdez to the Dodgers for Minor League right-hander Jarod Plummer. Plummer will be assigned to the Double-A Wichita Wranglers.
Plummer, 22, was a 26th-round draft pick (781st overall) in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft. In four years in the Minors, Plummer is 14-12 with a 2.57 ERA in 62 games, including 29 starts.
In 19 games last season for the Gulf Coast Rookie League Dodgers, Class A Columbus of the South Atlantic League and Class A Vero Beach of the Florida State League, Plummer struck out 74 and walked only 13 batters in 83 2/3 innings. In 227 career innings, the 6-foot-5, 200-pounder has fanned 213 and walked 51.
Wilson, 27, joins his seventh team in four years. In 129 at-bats for the Mariners and Padres last season, Wilson batted .201 with nine RBIs.
The Royals signed Valdez on Nov. 11, 2005, as a Minor League free agent, but he didn't figure in the infield picture as the Royals are set with starters Mike Sweeney, Doug Mientkiewicz, Mark Grudzielanek, Angel Berroa and Mark Teahen and backups Tony Graffanino, Matt Stairs and Esteban German.
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Spring Training info:
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Roster decision due: The Royals will set their 25-man Opening Day roster on Saturday, and Bell has a couple of decisions to make before then.
The Royals already have placed pitcher Runelvys Hernandez on the 15-day disabled list, and three other pitchers -- left-hander Mark Redman and right-handers Mike MacDougal and Zack Greinke -- also are expected to open the season on the DL.
If so, that leaves the Royals with 13 pitchers, two catchers, eight infielders and four outfielders. Bell must decide which pitcher to keep from among a group of three candidates: Steve Andrade, Joel Peralta and Steve Stemle.
The winner of that battle will join Jeremy Affeldt, Denny Bautista, Ambiorix Burgos, Elmer Dessens, Scott Elarton, Jimmy Gobble, Joe Mays, Andrew Sisco, Hudson and Mike Wood on an 11-man pitching staff.
Andrade is a Rule 5 selection who must make the 25-man roster or be offered back to Toronto for $25,000 before sending him to the Minors. Peralta didn't help his chances Friday night when he gave up back-to-back home runs to Lance Berkman and Morgan Ensberg in one inning of work.
"Any time you're in a situation like J.P. is you want every outing to be a good one. I hope to think we're smarter than to put everything on one outing," Bell said. "That's obviously going to be a consideration because we've got to make a decision, but he's had some other outings that have been pretty good."
The other positions are set: John Buck and Paul Bako are the catchers; Emil Brown, Shane Costa, David DeJesus and Reggie Sanders are the outfielders and Berroa, German, Graffanino, Grudzielanek, Mientkiewicz, Stairs, Sweeney and Teahen will be the infielders on Kansas City's Opening Day roster.
Mays tunes up: Mays held Houston to two runs on six hits in five innings on Friday night in his final preseason start.
"He was good. I know he threw a few too many pitches in the first inning, but he settled in," Bell said. "You know, I think a lot of times the first time in a real stadium other than a Spring Training ballpark gets your hearts started a little more -- maybe throwing through his stuff a little bit -- but I thought he was really good."
Mays gave up one run on four hits in the first, then settled down. He retired 10 of the last 11 batters he faced, allowing only a home run to Preston Wilson in the fourth.
"They came out swinging early and often," Mays said. "It was good to get here in this park and try to get the jitters out. No matter how many times you do it, you've still got the nerves."
Mays, who has a 3.60 ERA this spring, said he is ready to begin the season.
"Definitely," he said. "I got my work in and did what I needed to do."
Quotable: "[Buck] did a really good job behind the plate with [Mays]. He hit a ball good; [Astros center fielder Willy] Taveras made a good play on him. He'll be fine. My biggest concern with John is that he doesn't let his offense dictate what he's doing defensively." -- Bell, on Buck, who went 1-for-4 and drove in the winning run with a single in the eighth
Extra bases: Sanders, who missed the last two games because of the flu, was back in the lineup Friday night in the cleanup spot. With the exception of the pitcher, the lineup Bell used against the Astros likely will be the one the Royals will use most often during the regular season. DeJesus was in the leadoff spot, followed by second baseman Grudzielanek, designated hitter Sweeney, Sanders, first baseman Mientkiewicz, left fielder Brown, third baseman Teahen, shortstop Berroa and catcher Buck. "The names are going to be the same, but as far the order, I'm not sure," Bell said. ... Berroa singled in the fourth and has hit safely in 14 of his last 15 games. He is batting .490 (25-for-51) during that stretch. ... Scott Elarton, Houston's No. 1 pick in 1994, still counts several Astros among his friends. Elarton, who will start the Opening Day game against Detroit, stepped out of the visitors' clubhouse during Houston's batting practice session and was immediately greeted by Berkman and Craig Biggio. The three players were teammates on the Astros during 1998-2001. ... David Glass, owner and chief executive officer of the Royals, threw out the first pitch at Friday night's game. Glass was the guest of Astros owner Drayton McLane Jr.
On deck: The Royals will wrap up their preseason schedule when they take on the Astros on Saturday for the second night in a row at Minute Maid Park. Left-hander Jeremy Affeldt (3-1, 4.07 ERA) will be on the mound for Kansas City, while Houston will counter with rookie right-hander Taylor Buchholz (1-2, 1.96 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. CT.