Reds searching for options to replace Ludwick
Club hopes for immediate production help as outfielder will have surgery on shoulder
CINCINNATI -- Last season, when Joey Votto went down with a knee injury and missed 48 games, Ryan Ludwick was a big reason the Reds picked up the slack. Together, they helped turn a potentially very negative outlook into a positive.
During that stretch, Ludwick hit .340, with 12 homers. He wound up batting .275, with 26 homers and 80 RBIs in 125 games overall.
Someone, or multiple someones, will have to do the same thing for a now-injured Ludwick. In the third inning of the Reds' 3-1 loss to the Angels in 13 innings on Opening Day, the 34-year-old dislocated his right shoulder sliding headfirst into third base.
"We're all pretty close, and to see anybody get hurt, it's no good," said the man who replaced Ludwick in left field Monday, Chris Heisey.
Ludwick, who had his arm in a sling postgame, had an MRI on Tuesday and learned that the injury will require surgery to repair torn cartilage in the shoulder. He'll have that surgery on Wednesday and will go on the 15-day disabled list. The Reds say they will make a corresponding roster move prior to Wednesday night's game.
The final two outfielders cut from Spring Training were Derrick Robinson and Denis Phipps, but neither player is currently on the 40-man roster. Robinson batted .300 in 22 spring games after being signed in the offseason as a Minor League free agent. Phipps batted .277 with two home runs and 24 spring games.
The Reds will need others to contribute immediately with production.
Heisey, and potentially lefty-hitting fifth outfielder Xavier Paul, will get a chance to step up and pick up the slack.
"I've done it before," Heisey said. "If that's what I'm called to do, I will show up and do it the best I can."
Reds manager Dusty Baker will also have to find a new cleanup hitter to take Ludwick's spot as a right-handed power bat between Votto and Jay Bruce. A good bet would be current No. 2 hitter Brandon Phillips, who has pop and experience batting fourth.
"I have to think about what's the best lineup for us," Baker said. "There are quite a few things that go into the equation. We'll see."
Instead of dipping their toes gently into the 2013 season's waters, Cincinnati has to jump right in. First, the Reds must complete the remaining two games of the series vs. the Angels -- an arguable favorite in the American League West with Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton.
Then arrives last season's best team in baseball, and a popular pick as the National League pennant winners for this year, the Nationals. A six-game road trip follows, which begins with a three-game series against the tough division-rival Cardinals -- the Reds were 2-4 at Busch Stadium last season -- and three more games at Pittsburgh, where they were 5-4 in 2012.
Also included on the April schedule are three games vs. the Phillies before the gauntlet wraps with one more road trip -- to Washington and back to St. Louis again.
While the Nationals are favored by many, so are the Reds. The team is widely predicted to be better and go farther after taking the NL Central last season before losing to the Giants in the NL Division Series. That doesn't carry much weight for Reds starter Homer Bailey.
"I wish people would shut up about last year already and stay with what we're doing right now," Bailey said prior to Monday's game. "Let's start with our schedule in April and work from there. Let's quit talking about how good we look on paper or what we did last year or the epic failure we put together in the last three games of the season, and think about this year and this series. And after this series, let's talk about the next one."
Phillips welcomed the challenge presented to his team so early.
"I'm glad we're playing these guys at the beginning of the season," Phillips said. "Especially to see the type of team we really are. It's a challenge. It's always good to get some of the best teams out of the way now instead of worrying about [whether] we might have to face those guys later on in the year when we really need to get some wins."
The Reds will still need wins out of the gate and hope there are no more injury setbacks while Ludwick is out.
"Staying healthy is the key to winning," Heisey said. "Last year, we stayed healthy, and we won. You've seen it before with teams that get a lot of injuries early, it's tough to rebound from that. Hopefully he will be back soon and everybody else will stay healthy."