The Cincinnati Reds have been fairly healthy during the 2013 season, but one injury has left a hole in the lineup that Dusty Baker and crew were not expecting.
On Opening Day, left fielder Ryan Ludwick injured his shoulder while diving head-first into third base. Ludwick made only two plate appearances in the game (he walked both times) before being injured and missing the balance of the season, to this point.
In Ludwick’s absence, the Reds have tried a number of players in left field. Chris Heisey, Xavier Paul and Derrick Robinson have split the playing time, but none of them have stood out and claimed the starting job permanently. All three have had their moments, but Cincinnati was counting on the kind of production it got from Ludwick last season.
Ludwick’s 2012 season, which was unexpected by most accounts, was outstanding. He hit 26 homers, knocked in 80 runs, with an OPS of .877. And he did that in only 125 games.
During the offseason, Cincinnati signed Ludwick to a two-year, $15 million contract, and he was expected to start in left field every day and bat in the middle of the lineup. Instead, after those two plate appearances, he landed on the disabled list and underwent shoulder surgery.
On Thursday, Ludwick told reporters that he’s now swinging the bat at about 85 percent without experiencing pain in his surgically-repaired shoulder. Ludwick hopes to start playing in some rehab assignments later this month, and he is expected to return to the big club in the middle of August.
If Ludwick can return, and show some of the form that he showed last season, it could be a boost to the Reds’ lineup. While Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce have all put up All-Star type of numbers, they have each struggled at times, as has the Cincinnati offense. Adding Ludwick could bolster that lineup even more as the Reds push toward the postseason.
Providing Ludwick is fully healthy, and that he can produce numbers close to what he did last season, his presence might be the final piece that gets the Reds into the postseason again this year.