Posted on 04 March 2012.
GOODYEAR, Ariz. If Ryan Ludwick ends up batting clean-up in the 2012 Cincinnati Reds lineup he won’t be a Stranger in Paradise.
In fact, batting fourth is as comfortable to him as an old pair of bedroom slippers before the dog chews them up.
And it certainly appeals to him because he would bat behind Joey Votto, just as he batted behind Albert Pujols when he was with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Ludwick batted fourth Saturday when the Reds opened their spring training exhibition season with a nine-inning 6-6 tie against the Cleveland Indians at Goodyear Ballpark.
Ludwick was hitless in his two at-bats, but drove a ball to deep right in the fourth inning that moved Joey Votto from second to third base as the Reds scored four times in that inning.
Manager Dusty Baker has issued fair warning that Saturday’s lineupbatting order might not be what fans see on Opening Day, but it looks suspiciously like the way he would want it.
When it was mentioned that Ludwick spent most of his career batting fourth, Baker smiled and said, “I know that. We’ll see. We’ll see if he is the same Ludwick as then, see if we have Ludwick Revisited.”
In 2008, Ludwick hit .299 with 37 home runs and 113 RBIs. His average slipped to .265 in 2009, but he still ripped 22 homers and drove in 97 runs.
Then injuries interrupted his fun and a a trade to San Diego, where Petco Park plays as big as Glacier National Park, nearly destroyed him.
In contrast, Great American Small Park is right up his alley the left field alley and the right field alley.
“He’s done it,” said Baker. “He has hit left-handers well. And with him, a right-hander, I can split up left-handers Joey Votto and Jay Bruce.”
Asked about batting fourth, Ludwick said, “I did it all of my career in the minors. I did it a little bit when I was with the Cleveland Indians (a few games in 2004 and 2005). I did it a lot when I was with St. Louis.
“I hit behind Albert Pujols about half the time,” he said. “The other half I mostly hit in the two-hole and the five-hole a lot after the Cardinals traded for Matt Holliday and he hit fourth. And I did it over half the time in San Diego.
“I’ve hit in the four-hole during my career more than anywhere else,” he added. “I do like it. To be honest, I like being in the lineup. I’ll hit seventh, I’ll hit eighth.”
That isn’t likely to happen.
“I’m not reading too much into where I’m hitting this early in spring training,” he added. “You can take this lineup and work it five different ways and make it a good-looking lineup. Dusty has a lot of options.”
Experience, though, always counts. And hitting behind Votto means a lot.
“It is the same as hitting behind Pujols,” he said. “I tend to be an aggressive hitter, swing at the first pitch. Corky Miller (a veteran catcher) told me the other day that his scouting report on me is that I swing at the first pitch 68 per cent of the time.”
True to form, in Ludwick’s first at-bat Saturday, leading off the second inning against Tribe left-hander David Huff, Ludwick took a rip at the first pitch and lined hard to second base.
“When I was with the Cardinals, when Albert was on first base, pitchers really wanted to get ahead in the count because they didn’t want to get in more trouble,” said Ludwick. “So I took advantage of that. And Joey is the same way. He is going to be on base a lot.
“Especially if there are less than two outs, with Jay Bruce and Scott Rolen and Drew Stubbs behind the clean-up hitter, guys with a lot of pop, pitchers are going to say, All right, I can’t get too fine and put two runners on,’ and you can really take advantage of that.”
The regulars played four innings and fell behind, 4-0, as starter Mike Leake gave up two runs and four hits in his two innings and 40-year-old Ron Mahay, the last of the 1994 strike replacement players, gave up two in the third.
But the Reds scored four in the fourth as Joey Votto doubled and scored, Drew Stubbs banged a two-run double and Devin Mesoraco singled home the tying run.
First baseman Neftali Soto, a player who eventually could replace Joey Votto if Votto leaves the Reds, replaced Votto at first base in the fifth inning and broke a 4-4 tie with a home run.
It stood at 5-4 until the top of the ninth when the Indians scored two runs off Kenekoa Texeira, the go-ahead run scoring on an error of shortstop Paul Janish that put the Tribe ahead, 6-5.
But Todd Frazier, who hit a home run for the only run in a two-inning intrasquad game Friday, hit another Saturday to tie it in the bottom of the ninth, 6-6, and the game was stopped after nine by mutual agreement.