View from Mt. Davis: Help is on the way

No matter what speculation there is about activity or inactivity surrounding the trade deadline, I can guarantee that the A's will be making a huge deal just before it comes. They will be picking up a 20 game winner, an annual Cy Young candidate, and one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball year after year. No, his name is not Randy Johnson; he is about 10 years younger than Johnson in fact. And believe it or not, the A's won't even have to give up any prospects to get him.

One of the biggest deadline additions in the club's illustrious history is on the horizon and, fortunately, it will not cost the A's a dime because it is coming from within. Tim Hudson is scheduled to pitch for the Sacramento Rivercats on July 31st, the day of the trade deadline. Shortly after, he is expected to return to the elite A's pitching staff in time to go head to head with the New York Yankees.

Hudson threw 35 pitches in a bullpen session on Saturday, and he is expected to continue his rehab program barring any major set-backs. Word has it Hudson looks great on the mound and has experienced no post work out pain. He has been instructed only to throw his fastball, just one of the nine pitches he brings to the mound with him.

What kind of impact is expected upon "Huddy's" return? A huge one. The A's have survived for a long time now on their starting pitching. But without team captain Tim Hudson in the rotation, something is definitely missing. Sure, fill-in starter Kirk Saarloos has done very well in Huddy's absence, but it just is not the same without him.

I am going to go on record now in predicting Hudson's return will be the spark the A's need to ignite their annual second half run. If that is not enough, don't forget that the A's also pulled a three-time Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger winner, Eric Chavez, off the disabled list a week and a half ago. In addition, General Manager Billy Beane made the first blockbuster deal of the season, trading prospects to the Royals for Carlos Beltran and then flipping him to the Astros for closer Octavio Dotel. Add a left-handed career set-up man, who could be coming off the disabled list in a month, and another left handed bullpen pitcher, and the struggling bullpen might even be healed. Arthur Rhodes is said to be only a couple days away from throwing again after a back strain, and Chris Hammond has already started his rehab assignment in Sacramento.

Can Hudson, Chavez, Dotel, and the good health of all of the A's bullpen pitchers, in addition to a surprisingly successful supporting cast, be enough to make it to the playoffs? I say yes, it is very likely. Having used the disabled list an astounding nine times this season, the team is remarkably still within striking distance to win the American League West. With the regular players returning soon, all of the team's second half answers could very likely come from within.

However, making the playoffs should be the least of the A's worries. They need to get to the playoffs in one piece this time. One thing that is glaringly obvious, however, is the fact that it has been three years since the club has had the Big Three firing on all cylinders in the post-season, which could have a lot to do with their now annual meltdowns in the first round. This is why the A's are taking their time and being extra patient with Hudson. The A's need a fully healed, healthy Hudson for the stretch-run and the playoffs. Add a healthy Huddy to the mix of "Moneyballers", and it is safe to say we can sit back and watch the A's take off in the second half.

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