George Nikitin / Associated Press

Though his performance Friday night was atypical of how he fares against the Giants, Tim Hudson nonetheless is a pitcher who has gained plenty of respect - especially from former teammate Barry Zito.

Braves' Hudson still impresses former teammate Zito

Published: Saturday, May. 11, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Sunday, May. 12, 2013 - 2:52 pm

SAN FRANCISCO – Giants left-hander Barry Zito said he figured his former teammate Tim Hudson was getting "bombarded" a couple of weeks ago after winning his 200th career game in Atlanta. But he made sure to shoot Hudson, with whom Zito still stays in touch from their days as two-thirds of the "Big Three" in Oakland, a text to say congratulations.

"It's very significant," Zito said of 200 wins. "You're probably not going to see a lot of 300-game winners anymore. But 200 and 250 are kind of the new milestones."

Hudson, who pitched against the Giants on Friday night at AT&T Park looking for career win No. 202, achieved the mark in an 8-1 win over the Washington Nationals on April 30 – a game in which he also hit a home run, becoming the second pitcher ever to combine those feats.

It's a number that has been reached by 110 pitchers in major-league history and just three active ones – Andy Pettitte (248) and Roy Halladay (201) are the others – and one the 37-year-old Hudson has come by through remarkable consistency. Since breaking in with the A's in 1999 and going 11-2 as a rookie, Hudson has recorded at least 15 wins eight times – including each of the past three years – and only twice had an ERA above 4.00.

Aside from elbow surgery that cost him most of the 2009 season, Hudson has managed to stay relatively healthy. He entered Friday's start 6-0 with a 2.48 ERA in his last nine starts against the Giants, but he didn't make it out of the fourth as the Giants scored six runs off him in the inning.

"The guy's just really grinded," Zito said. "Here's a guy that wasn't a top-round pick, didn't come in with a bunch of bells and whistles and all these things, but ever since he came up with the A's he's just been such a bulldog. He battles and fights, scratches and claws."

Zito, who debuted a season after Hudson and is three years younger, said he doesn't think Hudson is a much different pitcher now than in his early years. A cut fastball has become another zig that Hudson uses to complement his zagging sinker and changeup, Zito said.

"He used to throw more fastballs when he used to throw harder, but now he mixes up with the slider, cutter, sinker, split," said Giants center fielder Angel Pagan, who went into Friday 11-for-34 lifetime against Hudson, including a home run and eight strikeouts.

"He's thrown me curveballs (in) 3-2 (counts), changeups 2-0, just trying to keep me off-balance. … He'll throw you strikes."

Hudson debuted with the A's a month before his 24th birthday and will turn 38 in July. The next pitcher in line to collect his 200th win is Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia, who at 32 years old is sitting at 195. No other active pitcher is within 20.

That helps explain Zito's view of new milestones. His pitching coach, Dave Righetti, though, dismissed what he sees as, "Everybody making a big deal out of, 'Nobody's going to get 300 again.'

"They will because it's out there," Righetti said of 300 wins, which 24 pitchers, most recently Randy Johnson in 2009, have attained. "When things are out there, guys want to go after it."

Zito, who turns 35 Monday, has 163 career wins. He said he hasn't given a lot of thought to round numbers. "I'm just trying to think about my next one," Zito said.

Notes – Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Ryan Vogelsong will make his next scheduled start Wednesday at Toronto. Vogelsong failed to make it out of the fifth inning Thursday for a second consecutive start and has a 7.78 ERA through seven outings.

"He's pressing, grinding I think a little too hard every pitch – which you want, every pitch is important – but he probably needs to just back off a little bit," Bochy said.

• Giants reliever Santiago Casilla was unavailable Friday with right knee pain, but Bochy said he was optimistic Casilla would be an option today.

Call The Bee's Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015. Read his Bay Area Baseball blog at Follow him on Twitter @matthewkawahara.

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