SAN FRANCISCO - Early in his career, Tim Hudson thought a World Series berth was only a matter of time.
After all, he appeared in the postseason with the A's when he was 24 and in his second season in the majors, the start of a stretch of four straight playoff trips with Oakland.
"I thought that I'd be there every year,'' Hudson said Thursday. "I thought I'd have an opportunity every year to get to the playoffs and have a chance to win.''
It does not work that way, though, and Hudson -- despite carving out a spot as one of baseball's most consistent pitchers -- grudgingly made the transition from thinking of the World Series as inevitable to considering it unlikely.
"The further along you get in your career, you don't have that opportunity to pitch in a World Series, you often wonder, is it ever going to happen?'' Hudson said. "One day you see this window starting to gradually shrink throughout your career.''
Finally, with Hudson having compiled a 214-124 record and 3.45 ERA over 16 seasons, that window will open Friday night for the 39-year-old righthander. He'll make his World Series debut when he starts for the Giants in Game 3 against the Royals' Jeremy Guthrie with the series tied at one game each.
"I've always hoped and dreamed that this opportunity would happen for me, and here I am on the eve of obviously the biggest game I've ever pitched,'' said Hudson, whose 2013 Braves season ended on July 24 against the Mets when he fractured his right ankle during a bang-bang play at first involving Eric Young Jr. "It's almost a sense of relief that it's finally here, that what I've hoped and dreamed for throughout my career is finally here, and there's not going to be anybody on the field that's more ready than I am [Friday night].''
Hudson went 113-72 with a 3.56 ERA in nine seasons with the Braves -- he pitched in the postseason with them in 2005 and 2010 -- before signing a two-year deal with the Giants. Hudson, who immediately became a popular figure in the clubhouse, went 9-13 with a 3.57 ERA this season.
As happy as Hudson was when the Giants beat the Cardinals for the National League pennant, his teammates and manager were just as happy for him, recognizing him in the middle of the champagne celebration.
"When we won the pennant, you could see it,'' manager Bruce Bochy said. "He was so excited, and the guys were for him. It's great to win, and you feel good for the fans and your friends, family, but for your teammates who haven't been there, and that was talked about for the guys who have not been to the World Series. So part of the celebration was to bring him up and acknowledge that.''
Hudson is 1-3 with a 3.42 ERA in 11 career postseason starts and 0-0 with a 3.29 ERA in two postseason starts in 2014. He acknowledged that there will be a different feeling Friday night, but not an overwhelming one.
"It's obviously a bigger, brighter stage, but at the end of the day, it's the same game we've played all year. It's the same game we've played our whole lives,'' he said. "It's just going out there and controlling those emotions.''
Of which, Hudson readily admits, there are plenty.
"I feel lucky and blessed to be able to have this opportunity . . . That's why I came here,'' he said. "You always say the right things and you always think about the right things, but until it actually happens, there's always that doubt, can it happen? Here I am.''