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Updated: May 29th, 2010 7:32pm
Mackey: Orlando Hudson is earning every penny

Mackey: Orlando Hudson is earning every penny

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by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- It took the Twins' bats nearly six full innings to crawl out of bed at the start of Saturday's 8-3 win over the Rangers, but luckily 2B Orlando Hudson provided a blaring alarm clock -- something the Twins have grown accustomed to with their new second baseman both on the field and off.

Hudson's two-out, two-run homer to left in the sixth off LHP C.J. Wilson tied the game 2-2. Wilson buzz-sawed his way through the first five-plus innings, but he was unable to recover after Hudson's blast. Wilson eventually loaded the bases in the seventh and was pulled for RHP Chris Ray, who served up four run-scoring hits.

Before the flood gates opened in the sixth and seventh innings, however, Wilson had retired 10-straight batters. Denard Span broke that streak with a two-out single, followed by the Hudson home run that sent shockwaves through an otherwise sun-drained Target Field crowd.

"The big home run by O-Dawg just kind of woke everybody up," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Span gets a two-out base hit, and then O puts it in the seats, and then there you are, back in the ballgame tied, and then you go from there. When a (pitcher) is dominating like that, and you're waiting for something electric to happen, and it did with O-Dawg."

O-Dawg had his own unique thoughts on the home run.

"The momentum kind of shifted a little bit," Hudson said. "Just like any other sport. We saw that between the Lakers and the Suns, momentum shift, big time. My Suns might be going down. I'm pissed."

Hudson finished the day 2-for-4 with two runs and three RBI, raising his season hitting line to .307/.381/.427, and he's displayed some fantastic glove work for a Twins infield defense that ranks second to nobody.

Off the field, Hudson is high-energy, with a gregarious, outspoken personality, and his teammates welcome that with open arms.

"Between the leadership and just the great camaraderie that he brings, and then his game, I mean the guy is an all-around player," Carl Pavano said, after his solid seven-inning outing. "He keeps himself in shape. First guy to the yard, always keeping things fresh, and he's a big part of why we're winning ballgames."

"It's a great clubhouse," Hudson said. "Not just the offense, man, it's just a bunch of great guys, period. So I'm just having a lot of fun here. It's so relaxing, it's just a joy to come to the yard and play good baseball."

The Twins have been searching for an impact second baseman in many respects since the departure of Luis Castillo. They've also been searching for a viable two-hole hitter since... well... does Jay Canizaro's hot streak back in July, 2000 count?

In fact, when Joe Mauer is taken out of the equation, Twins number-two hitters batted .232 in 2009 with a .269 on base percentage.

That's just embarrassing.

Now, let's not be delusional here. Hudson signed a one-year, $5 million contract, and his status as a Twin beyond 2010 is questionable at best, regardless of the numbers he puts up. But for now, with Hudson in the mix, the Twins have found a perfect bridge from Denard Span to Mauer, Justin Morneau, and the rest of the lineup.

And Hudson is earning every penny of that contract, and then some.

"As I told O-Dawg this winter, if you want to come over here and hit in front of Mauer and behind Span, with Morneau behind Mauer, you've got a chance to score a lot of runs and do some damage and have a heck of a year.

"I think he likes it."

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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