2013 Reds / Opening Day / Reds - General

Waiting for Ludwick

This year marks the 60th anniversary of Samuel Beckett’s iconic play Waiting for Godot. The two main characters, Vladimir and Estragon, pass their time waiting for the appearance of a man named Godot, whom neither has actually met. Godot, of course, never arrives.

Interpretations of the play vary. Beckett himself was evasive about its symbolism. On its face, the play is both a tragedy and comedy about two men and their distractions while they faithfully … wait. Wait for Godot, for salvation, for whatever. Beckett depicts waiting as a fundamental part of the human struggle, similar to conditions like hunger, sadness, confusion, and bad bullpen management.

Reds fans have been waiting since the third inning of Opening Day for the return of left fielder, Ryan Ludwick, who was injured on an extreme hustle play sliding into third base. Manager Dusty Baker said that day, “It’s just a temporary setback.”

The initial estimate for Ludwick’s return was three months, sometime around the All-Star break. That timeline proved overly optimistic. Now nearly four and a half months later, the left-fielder appears close to taking the field at GABP. He’s been playing in rehab games for Dayton and Louisville since July 24. The maximum allowable time for rehab assignments is 20 games, which would end around August 12. Tuesday, Dusty Baker told reporters that Ludwick may be back by the end of the week.

Unlike Godot, it looks like Ryan Ludwick will appear. But is our wait over?

What can Reds’ fans realistically expect when the 35-year-old returns? It’s hard to say. There is quite a bit of variance in the impact of shoulder injuries. It’s a positive that Ludwick throws left-handed and the injury was to his right shoulder. Though he hit just 4-for-36 (gulp) in rehab games, Ludwick did smack a home run Tuesday for Louisville.

Unfortunately, that’s about the end of the good news.

Expect for Ludwick to suffer diminished power initially as the post-operative weakness slows his bat speed and prevents force from transferring from his legs through to his swing. The Dodgers’ center fielder, Matt Kemp, had similar labrum surgery this past off-season. His hitting (.263/.319/.382) has dramatically fallen from his previous two seasons (.314/.383/.562). That’s just one example and Ludwick’s case may be completely different.

The torn labrum also presents a serious long-term risk. If Ludwick comes back too soon (I know, hard to imagine the Reds mishandling this), he runs the risk of permanent damage that could jeopardize his career. Reds’ fans need to look no further than Scott Rolen for the dramatic impact a chronic shoulder injury can have on a hitter’s power. Renewed damage to the labrum could make the outlook for Ludwick returning to his previous performance levels extremely unlikely.

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that we may not be finished waiting after all.

Because it wasn’t Ryan Ludwick we’ve been waiting for, it was his powerful right-handed bat.

The Reds knew those risks, they witnessed the experience of Kemp, Rolen and other players. Despite that knowledge and against my unsolicited advice, the club made no move to replace Ryan Ludwick. General Manager Walt Jocketty recently defended the club’s inaction by saying “You can’t trade for people like (Ryan Ludwick).” Hmm, Ludwick himself was traded at the deadline in both 2010 and 2011.

Waiting for Godot opens with Estragon pulling at his too-tight boot, trying to take it off. He unsuccessfully tugs and tugs with both hands, then rests. He tries once again, fails and gives up.

“Nothing to be done,” says Estragon, in the play’s first spoken line. And that’s exactly what the Reds did about the loss of Ryan Ludwick’s bat. Nothing. Nothing to be done.

Like Beckett’s sad, but hopeful characters, Reds’ fans continue to wait. And as any Tom Petty fan knows, that’s the hardest part.

30 thoughts on “Waiting for Ludwick

  1. While I agree with your assessment that Ludwick will be a shadow of his former self, the Reds convinced themselves that they owe it to him to first see what he’s got. If he hits, the ship will right itself. If there’s nothing there, I think they pull the plug on the Heisey/Ludwick two headed monster and going after a bat via the waiver wire. Given how bad the hitters have been vs. RHP, it’s a move that is patently obvious.

    • While I agree with your assessment that Ludwick will be a shadow of his former self, the Reds convinced themselves that they owe it to him to first see what he’s got.If he hits, the ship will right itself.If there’s nothing there, I think they pull the plug on the Heisey/Ludwick two headed monster and going after a bat via the waiver wire.Given how bad the hitters have been vs. RHP, it’s a move that is patently obvious.

      Who is “they”? It sure wouldn’t be Dusty pulling the plug. I’m afraid we’re stuck it’s Luddy even if he is Rolen-esque as a player returning from an injury.

  2. Hoping Ludwick produces upon return has been the one thing I’ve allowed myself to be overly-optimistic about this season. I try to rationalize his poor performance in his rehab as “small sample” or “he’s just trying to get his legs under him. Hits are a bonus.” Because, man, it sure would be nice to end up with last year’s Ludwick batting there behind Joey!

  3. There are two significant factors impeding Ludwick’s productive return to the major league lineup. The first of course is his health. Traditionally, I believe Ludwick has experienced a slow recovery, by his own admission, but this time his recovery has been somewhat advanced of any realistic recovery time (completely discounting the absurdly optimistic 3 month recovery time and back by the all star break nonsense). The chance of Ludwick reclaiming his power this season is a real craps shoot. I believe Godot actually almost made an appearance near the end of the play, but was sidetracked on his journey by the blasted craps tables. The second obstacle facing Ludwick’s productive return is his ability to simply regain his hitting stroke and this has me even more concerned for any real production from Ludwick this season. Ludwick is not just a slow starter each season, he is an agonizingly slow starter, and right now he is again starting his season anew. Two months from the dedicated start for the beginning of his season, he starts to regain his hitting stroke. Two months from now may be too late period.

  4. Even with decent performance, Dusty hasn’t let Heisey hit much vs RH starting pitchers. So maybe he’s planning to platoon Ludwick. Since we face a lot more RH than LH pitching, we’re really waiting for Robinson to steal a base. Or Xavier Paul to hit something other than a fastball….

  5. Do we have any information on how Ludwick looks/feels, physically, in his rehab? The line is obviously not impressive but it would help to know if a)he’s struggling at the plate and looks to be ailing vs b)simply struggling at the plate, which can happen to anyone and is quite common in rehab assignments.

  6. Not to be a Debbie Downer here, but I saw Ludwick in a rehab game. Granted, I am not a scout. However, I suggest it doesn’t take a scout’s eye to recognize when a player’s swing is as slow as his was.

  7. Not looking for any regained power from Ludwick this year. But if he can get his hitting eye going from the get-go, and he hits .275-.280ish from the #6 or #7 hole, it will be a nice and welcome addition. No need to put him in at #4, no need to put any additional pressure on him to produce.
    The question then becomes, who hits second??
    Frazier? He did have 2 BB’s yesterday in an 0-3 game. Cozart? Naw, we’ve seen that movie. Mes/Hannigan? That would be stranger than fiction. We care about Baker’s health, so we don’t want him to have a stroke while writing the Catcher in the #2 hole. By simple deduction, if Ludwick plays, we may see more of Frazier batting second.

    • @WVRedlegs:

      A batting order of:
      1. Choo
      2. Frazier
      3. Votto
      4. Phillips
      5. Bruce
      6. Meso
      7. Ludwick
      8. Cozart
      Might be an infusion of energy the Reds offense needs.

  8. Also, we have to factor in that Ludwick was signed for two years. Even if the Reds get nothing from him this year, they’re still hoping that he’ll be himself by next season……..

    Like many others, I’d have loved to see a move to fill that spot, but that’s the type of gamble the Reds took when they signed Ludwick for that price for two years, apparently a bit under market value. He’s getting paid too much to just write him off, and the Reds can’t/won’t spend for another guy in that same spot. Heisey and XP better produce if needed.

    • @vegastypo: I think that it’s questionable to assume that they could have gotten anyone significantly better than Heisey/Paul/Robinson without giving up a player(s) they need at least as much as whichever low-rent bat they got in return. Maybe they should offer Heisey and Ondru to the Rockies for Cargo? (save your glee, I’m being facetious).

  9. They should have hedged their bets by getting someone like Rios, M young, Jason Bay(maybe), or even someone like Marlon Byrd.

    That way they could have let Ludwich start his rehab to end with the bats season, bring him up on expanded roster. If all goes well, you could still put him on Post-season roster as he was on DL at end of August. In that event, you leave heisy, paul, or robinson off post season roster. Gave you the most time for healing/strengthening, and 6 weeks of game action to make an evaluation.

    • @Lost and Found: Michael Young is still an option. I’m not sure how, but the Phillies successfully cleared him through waivers, so they can trade him to anyone now. He’s a pure rental for the remainder of this season and I have no idea what the asking price might be for 2 months of Micheal Young, but he is one of the few available optionws now.

  10. They should have hedged their bets by getting someone like Rios, M young, Jason Bay(maybe), or even someone like Marlon Byrd.

    That way they could have let Ludwick start his rehab to end with the bats season, bring him up on expanded roster. If all goes well, you could still put him on Post-season roster as he was on DL at end of August. In that event, you leave heisy, paul, or robinson off post season roster. Gave you the most time for healing/strengthening, and 6 weeks of game action to make an evaluation.

  11. I love that there’s a Samuel Beckett tag at the end of this story. You know, just waiting for the next time Irish modernist literature is discussed on this forum.
    No comments about the baseball aspect of all this. I just want to say any discussion that can intertwine Beckett, the Reds and a touch of Tom Petty is good reading.

    • @jernagaj: Waiting for Godot was my favorite play in college. That’s probably true for a lot of people. Didi and Gogo are two of the most beloved characters in fiction.

  12. I hate the Cards. That being said: anyone who doesn’t tune in (if they can) to see Martinez pitch to the Dodgers tonight, isn’t a true baseball fan.

  13. I, for one, was never sold on Ludwick coming back for a good to great season this year without the injury. The idea of him returning and hitting around the 7 hole makes sense, and that’s probably why it would never happen. It’s not the Dusty way. I’m afraid this is going to be more of a distraction than a help. I really, really hope I’m wrong.

  14. The discussion about “Waiting for Ludwick” to return has touched all the bases. The hype that will happen when Luddy is in the lineup will be beyond belief. Remember when Joey got back. To pin the teams’ hopes on a guy who hasn’t swung a bat in a ML game in 5 months is really a stretch. Trying to figure out where Dusty will bat him is even a bigger waste of effort. I do agree with WJ that the available rentals were equal to or of less value that than what we already have (if they were given a true chance). Let’s close our eyes and say they make the wildcard round against the Cards in St. Louis and win there and then go to Pittsburg. At this point the Pirates seem to have something the Reds do not. I believe P Doc said it a while back,”The It Factor”. So now it is October 5th, the Reds are off till next year and we will start to hear the normal off season stuff start about next year.
    We have a year on the Ludwick contract, Choo will be a free agent, Bronson will be on the market, and we still will not have a long term left fielder, a third baseman who will hit 278, 28 hr’s, and 85 rbi., or a second base candidate to replace Phillips in a year or two. Oh, let’s not forget that nobody in AAA or AA with 300 AB”s or more is close to being a .300 minor league hitter.
    AAA – Soto .274 with 87 SO will be 25 years old in 2014
    AA – Mattair .247 with 93 SO will be 26 years old in 2014

    Most of you know what that will translate to in the majors, not good.

    So what do we have left to trade with? We have 4 major league starters and a returning injured “ACE”.
    If WJ goes out and gets the Reds a left fielder (Trout) it will cost the Reds Chapman and a starter.
    If WJ goes out and gets the Reds a center fielder (???) it will cost the Reds a starter and a relief pitcher.
    Yeah you get it.
    What about Hamilton, let’s look through games ending 8/8/2013

    Player POS G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI TB BB SO SB CS OBP SLG AVG OPS E
    Hamilton CF 103 421 65 108 16 2 6 39 146 34 92 68 12 .311 .347 .257 .658 6
    Had enough.

    That’s what I see if I am the Reds GM. It could be a long cold winter.
    Thanks for your time and interest.

  15. At least Ludwick will show up, the real waiting for Godot is waiting for Cueto and Marshall. Not a word on either of them for a long time now. I suspect that they’re both out for the season, the Reds don’t want other teams to know.

    • @pinson343: I do believe your right .
      That makes two left handed relief pitchers trades that we have lost due to injury. Remember Madson? Cueto has not even tossed a baseball yet. Where would he rehab in September. The minor league season ends in September.

  16. Sorry about the Hamilton chart it moved. The short story is he is hitting .257 with 92 SO in 421 AB’s

    • @George M: Look at Hamilton since the All Star Break. He K rate is about the same but he is hitting for a better average and more power. I don’t care about his K rate so long as he is seeing pitches and pushing his OBP about 100 points higher than his average!

      Choo strikes out a lot for a guy with his OBP and Votto leads everyone but seems to be striking out more than usual. Hamilton is now hitting .313/.360/.410 post all star game. He breaks .400 OBP in the second half of the year and it will be hard for me not to be very optimistic.

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