Dayton Dragons manager Jose Nieves worked with Cincinnati Reds left-fielder Ryan Ludwick for a short time in a big league camp a few years ago, when Nieves was starting his coaching career.
He remembered Ludwick as affable, personable and social, which is one reason he’s happy the Reds standout will be starting a rehab assignment on Wednesday with the Dragons when they visit Lansing for the start of a three-game series. Ludwick will play all three games for Dayton as a designated hitter.
Ludwick separated his shoulder sliding into third base during opening day on April 1. Last season, his first as a Red, he hit .275 with 26 home runs and 80 RBIs batting clean-up. The result was Cincinnati making the playoffs and signing him to a multi-year contract.
“He’s a nice guy, loves to interact with people and loves the game,” Nieves said. “He isn’t the type of big-leaguer who is cold. He prefers to socialize with people and players love being around him.”
That makes him the perfect model for Nieves’ group of minor leaguers. Dayton’s proximity to Cincinnati means it’s a prime spot to get players on rehab assignments. Nieves tries to take advantage of every opportunity he can to have these players impress upon the Dragons what it takes to be a major-league baseball player.
“I try to take advantage of these guys,” Nieves said. “I’ll tell them about some of our kids, and see if they can approach them individually or in group meetings. Unless they were some phenom coming out of college, they’ve been in this exact situation.
“It gives our guys the chance to see these players are regular human beings, the difference is how they think about the game, how they prepare, their mental toughness and their consistency — that’s what got them to where they are.”
Vincej off DL: Dayton’s all-star shortstop, Zach Vincej, was activated from the disabled list Monday. Vincej suffered a strained abdomen on June 27. He has played in 70 games this year for Dayton, batting .280 with 25 RBIs. In his 17 games prior to injury, he hit .473 and was leading the Midwest League in batting average during the second half.
Vincej sat Monday’s game because the team wanted him to work a couple batting practice sessions before returning to the field, presumably on Wednesday when Dayton starts its series in Lansing.
“For me, shortstop is the toughest position in the infield,” Nieves said. “You need someone who is settled and familiar with it. Having him back may not minimalize some of the errors we’ve been having in the infield, but it’s a huge add because it stabilizes the position and he was batting well and he can hit behind runners.”