The Cincinnati Reds have played well enough to hang around near the top of the standings in one of the toughest divisions in MLB all season, and they’ve done it with a revolving door of players in left field.
Ryan Ludwick was their surefire left-fielder before the season started, but a torn labrum in his shoulder in the first game of the season kept him out of action from April until August 11.
They’ve had Derrick Robinson, Chris Heisey, Xavier Paul and Donald Lutz all man the position at one point or another, and none have really impressed at the plate. They have combined for a .244 batting average and have posted an awful walk-to-strikeout ratio of 1:3. Heisey, Robinson and Paul essentially split the time three ways because none of them were able to prove they could get the job done on a day-to-day basis.
This forced manager Dusty Baker to try to rotate them into situations he felt they would succeed in, but that still wasn’t enough.
With Ludwick in the lineup the Reds don’t have to worry about which player is going to be defending in left from one day to the next. They have the comfort of knowing there is a guy behind them who has played major league baseball for ten years for a reason. He’s not going to come back and post a .966 OPS like he did with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2008, but at least they’re going to be getting someone who can consistently put the ball in play.
The Reds have a good chance to improve their playoff chances over the next few days as they host the Cardinals for the final series of the season between the two. They sit just 3.5 games out of first place in the NL Central and have a chance to put the Cardinals behind them by the time they leave town. Having Ludwick back makes this a much more interesting race. They were a handful of games behind the leaders all season but are picking the right time to inch closer.