Ready or not, Ryan Ludwick will return to the Reds on Monday, manager Dusty Baker said Saturday.
Ludwick hasn’t played for the Reds since April Fool’s Day, an Opening Day that was no joke for the left fielder. One headfirst slide gone wrong changed the look of the lineup — Brandon Phillips took over for Ludwick in the cleanup spot — and altered the course of the season.
Ludwick’s surgically-repaired shoulder feels good. It passed a big test when he made a diving headfirst catch in his rehab assignment without any problems. His swing has not quite caught up. In 13 games in Single-A Dayton and Triple-A Louisville, he hit .136 (6-of-44).
“I hit for 2½ months before I go to spring training, and then you have all camp to get ready,” Ludwick said. “Then everyone’s kind of starting on an even playing field. Well, I hit for a week and a half and got thrown right in the fire with everybody in mid-season form, so the timing of the game’s been tough, but I felt it got better little by little.”
Ludwick had hits in his last four games in Louisville, including one in his final rehab game Friday. He returned to Cincinnati on Saturday and will head to Chicago with the Reds to play the Cubs on Monday.
“I hit a home run (Tuesday), which mentally for me was a big hurdle, to show I still have power,” he said. “Now it’s just getting consistency of the swing and trying to get in season form as quickly as possible.”
Some of Ludwick’s struggles in the minors, he thought, had to do with the fact that he didn’t know the pitchers down there like he knows the big leaguers.
“I’ve watched a lot of video, and I’m very familiar with facing guys up here,” Ludwick said. “Take a guy like (Travis Wood), who we’re going to face Monday, and I already see him in my head. I know exactly what his ball’s going to do. I know how he pitches. I know how he attacks me. I didn’t face one guy down there I knew.”
Baker said Ludwick would bat sixth in the order when he returns to the lineup.
“First we’ve got to see what he’s bringing to the table,” Baker said. “Is he the same Luddy? He’s operating from behind. We certainly miss him. He’s a run-producer. It’s hard to put him in there in Jay Bruce’s spot. It’s hard to ease him into Brandon’s spot because he’s really come through in that situation.”
Arroyo’s gem: Bronson Arroyo proved again he has many more miles in his 36-year-old arm Friday, allowing one run in seven innings in a 7-2 win over the Padres.
Arroyo (10-9) has won at least 10 games eight times in his career and six times in his eight years with the Reds. He bounced back from his worst outing of the season. He gave up seven earned runs in 3 2/3 innings in his previous start against the Cardinals.
“You just don’t have a choice,” Arroyo said. “You go out there and prepare yourself. Sometimes you try to dissect your performance, to see if there’s something missing there, why maybe you weren’t feeling strong, whether it was diet or your workout or whatever it was.
“When you have two or three bad ones in a row is when it really starts getting frustrating because it can play tricks on your mind. Especially at my age, you might start thinking you’re heading down the other side of the mountain.”