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Ask Hal: Ludwick needed, but can he find his stroke?

Q: In recent stories you referred to B.J. Upton as having an adductor injury and Johnny Cueto having a lat injury. Could you refer to injuries in layman’s terms so I don’t have to go to WebMD? — DAVE, MIAMISBURG/CENTERVILLE/BEAVERCREEK

A: I know you have a college degree, but if you don’t understand adductor and lat I wonder if your school of choice was a Caribbean “medical school” in the jungle. But for your edification, the adductor is a hip muscle and the lat (latissimus dorsi) is a triangular muscle running from the spinal cord to under the armpit. Class dismissed.

Q: How close is Ryan Ludwick to coming back, and this late in the year can he realistically be counted upon to contribute? — LARRY, DOUGLASVILLE, GA.

A: Ryan who? Oh, that guy who batted cleanup last year. Ludwick says he’ll be back by mid-August, but he’ll also need some at-bats on rehab in the minors. After missing nearly a full season after dislocating his shoulder, one wonders if he can find his batting stroke in time to help. Ludwick is a dedicated hard-worker and a positive influence in the clubhouse. His mere presence helps the team and the team desperately needs his right-handed production.

Q: How many Hall of Fame players have you seen play in person? — NICHOLAS, CINCINNATI

A: Some people believe I saw Cy Young, Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth, but that’s not true. Only in my dreams. There are 208 players in the Hall of Fame and I was astounded when I counted up how many I saw in person. I was privileged to see and cover 74 Hall of Famers. And I was fortunate to cover games with 31 of the 63 baseball writers in the Hall of Fame.

Q: Why do the Reds have so much trouble with American League teams and with teams in the National League they should beat? — SUSAN, CINCINNATI

A: Who is to say what teams the Reds should beat and teams they shouldn’t beat? That’s why they play 162 games? That determines who are the good teams and who are the bad teams. And you can blame the schedule-maker for pitting the Reds against American League teams like Oakland, Texas and Cleveland — three of the best in the AL. The NL? Don’t the Reds mostly beat up on the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers? Those are teams they should beat. So where are the Houston Astros when you need them?

Q: The Reds traded Triple-A pitcher Armando Galarraga (2.98 ERA) to Colorado for Triple-A pitcher Parker Frazier (10.67 ERA). Will there be any other blockbuster trades by the Reds? — CRAIG, FORT LORAMIE

A: That trade was a blockbuster the way Blockbuster Video is still relevant in these days of social media. That trade looks as if the two general managers didn’t have anything else to do that day. But Reds GM Walt Jocketty is burning up cellphone minutes trying to plug some holes. But if you hold your breath waiting for something big, big, big, well, your face will turn as blue as a Blockbuster sign.

Q: Why does Jay Bruce jerk his left arm up in the air before every pitch and why does he walk halfway to the dugout after every pitch? — ED, CINCINNATI

A: Superstition? Habit? Attention? If you watch closely, nearly every player has a routine that seldom varies. Remember Joe Morgan’s flapping left arm? Remember Jonny Gomes jamming hard on the top if his helmet? Remember Mark Fidrych drawing symbols on the mound and talking to the baseball? I have a routine, too — a large dish of soft ice cream after the top of the seventh and I have a special seat (the only chair) in front of manager Dusty Baker’s desk for the pregame media meeting and Baker won’t permit anybody else to sit in it.

Q: The last time I checked the Houston Astros were 21 ½ games out of first place. Is there a magic number when teams realize they are out of contention and begin to trade players to begin preparing for next year? — CRAIG, FAIRBORN

A: Have you checked Houston’s roster? Ever heard of any of them? The Astros don’t have much to trade. They already are rebuilding from within and they don’t have much that can help a contending team. It’s the reason they are 21 1/2 back. There is no magic number for teams. Some have high-priced veterans they might want to dump and others have high-priced players they want to keep for the future. It all depends on each team’s philosophy — the difference between Plato and Sophocles.

Q: For a team that has won the division two of the last three years the Reds make a lot of mental mistakes, especially on the bases. Is it a lack of leadership, lack of maturity, lack of coaching or all of the above? JEFF, RUSSELS POINT

A: It isn’t lack of maturity because most of the mishaps involve Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto. A lot of it is over-aggressiveness, trying to make things happen. And mostly what they made happen was an out they shouldn’t have made. And when a team struggles to score runs with runners in scoring position, basepath blunders are exacerbated.

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