When I got up at 5:30am Kabul time Tuesday morning and learned that the Reds lost on Opening Day, my day started off bad. The runners left on base, the lost opportunities, a wasted brilliant pitching performance by Johnny Cueto. It all brought back memories— bad memories— of watching Game 3 against the Giants last year at GABP.
But when I read that Ryan Ludwick dislocated his shoulder, I picked up my size 12 combat boot and threw it against the wall.
The Reds have lost key players before. Dave Concepcion in 1973 when he broke his ankle. Young Don Gullett’s broken thumb in 1975. Junior in just about every season he was here. The difference with this injury is the time of year. We’re one game into a season in which this 2103 Reds team was the consensus pick to win their Division and the left fielder and cleanup hitter is lost for months. That’s the difference.
There’s two immediate things to resolve.
The first is the batting order. And brothers, this is a moot point. Dusty is going to put Brandon Phillips in the cleanup spot. I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t. It’s the safe choice, the conservative choice, the very Dusty-like choice. If it was up to me, I would minimize the disruption of the order and just move Todd Frazier there, keep Phillips at #2 and leave Zack Cozart near the bottom of the order. But it’ll never happen.
The second is the left field situation. The Reds might find it difficult to make a trade so early in the season. Few teams are going to want to make a trade at this point unless the Reds make an overwhelming, can’t refuse offer. Uncle Walt is not gonna do that. If that option isn’t explored, the Reds need to figure out how to replace Ludwick from within the organization.
Let’s not forget that Ludwick wasn’t much of a factor at the plate the first two months of the 2012 season. He didn’t heat up until June. As noted by our brilliant staff of writers at Redleg Nation, it was Ludwick and Frazier that sparked the Reds run when JoeyMVP got hurt last year.
As for leftfield, the Reds need to go with Chris Heisey and find out, once and for all, what he’s capable of doing. Stick with him for a month and give him at bats and steady playing time. We already know his defense is good, he’s got the experience and the time is ripe to find out what the Reds have— a utility player or an everyday player. Heisey doesn’t need to play like a superstar; he just needs to supply some pop, knock in a few runs and bat for a decent average. The Reds don’t need him to put up George Foster-type numbers. (Speaking of Foster, why wasn’t he allowed to throw out the ceremonial first pitch after being Grand Marshal of the parade? Joe Torre? What remote connection does he have to the Reds?)
Don’t panic Nation.
The Reds took a jolt on Opening Day. A big one. But good teams overcome injuries. A cliché, for sure, but true.
Will Chris Heisey emerge? Xavier Paul? Is Billy Hamilton ready? Someone else?
We’ll find out soon enough.