Starting pitcher Dakota Hudson will continue his comeback from Tommy John surgery for the St. Louis Cardinals when they host the Pittsburgh Pirates Monday to close a four-game series.

The Cardinals won the first two games at Busch Stadium 9-0 and 6-2 while the Pirates won 9-4 Sunday.

Hudson was 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA in two appearances late last season after returning from his elbow repairs. He was 3-2 with a 2.77 ERA in eight starts in 2020 before the injury shut him down.

“It was a tease of a season last year — I mean, I had two outings,” Hudson told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I got back around the team for two weeks and it was incredible baseball. So, I’m looking forward to being with these guys and seeing what we can do this year. It’s exciting.”

Hudson emerged as one of the best young pitchers in the sport in 2019, when he went 16-7 with a 3.35 ERA.

“I’ve seen consistency early in seasons, I’ve seen it deeper into a regular season — I’m looking to be strong at the end,” Hudson said. “So, putting it all together and making it consistent and making it easier to repeat, that’s what I’m after. That’s what I’ve been driving for since I had (surgery) — and now that I’m back and healthy, that’s what I’m pushing forward for.”

The Pirates will start Zach Thompson, who was 3-7 with a 3.24 ERA in 26 games as a rookie for the Miami Marlins last season, including 14 starts.

Although Thompson opened the season in the rotation, Pirates manager Derek Shelton expects to use Thompson as both a starter and reliever with his pitching staff in flux.

“I think the fact he’s done both is really important,” Shelton said during spring training. “We’ve talked about versatility. We’ve talked about if guys are starters, how we’re going to use them. I don’t think we’ll see very many traditional starters, especially in April and we may not through the year. His ability to do both things is really important.”

This will be Thompson’s first career start against the Cardinals. He will need to play close attention to hot-hitting third baseman Nolan Arenado, who is 6-for-12 with three doubles, two homers, four runs and seven RBIs in the first three games.

Hudson will face an offense that came to life Sunday. After scoring just two runs in their first two games, the Pirates broke out in their third game.

Michael Chavis went 3-for-4 with a grand slam. “It got us on the board and showed that even though we lost the first two games, we’re going to continue to go,” Shelton said. “It got us started.”

Diego Castillo (3-for-5, two runs scored), Ben Gamel (2-for-4, two runs), Ke’Bryan Hayes (2-for-5, RBI) and Jake Marisnick (2-for-5, RBI) also produced.

“It’s cool to see what this team can do when we’re clicking on all cylinders,” Pirates pitcher Bryse Wilson told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The Cardinals hope to get manager Oliver Marmol back on the bench Monday. He missed the last two games with a non-COVID illness, and coach Skip Schumaker served as acting manager.

–Field Level Media