Ludwick Makes Third Rehab Appearance

Friday marked Ryan Ludwicks third rehab appearance as he works to get back into the Reds lineup after suffering a separated shoulder on opening day. Big expectations were expected of the lineup with the addition of Shin-Soo Choo atop of it and Brandon Phillips hitting behind him. The Reds are hopeful that will finally materialize over the final two months of the season.

Dayton allowed three runs in the seventh/eighth innings in a 6-3 loss at Lansing. Jesse Winker tied the game at one when he led off the second with a home run. Ryan Ludwick walked the next inning and was aboard for a two-run homer by Seth Mejias-Brean which gave them a brief lead, but the Dragons would not cross the plate again over the remainder of the game. It was Mejias-Brean's fifth homer in the last eight games. After going deep only once in his first 61 games this season he now has seven jacks in the last 35 while maintaining a .350 AVG/.422 OB% over that time.

The Dayton attack was limited to five hits in the game with Mejias-Brean reaching with a walk an addition to his hit and bringing his average up to an even .300 on the season. Amir Garrett started on the mound and got no decision for allowing two runs on five hits and a walk. Jackson Stephens relieved him and finished the game with a loss after allowing four runs in four innings pitched.

It was the third rehab appearance for Ludwick who had been out since separating a shoulder while diving into third base in the Reds opening game. He's gone 1-5 with three walks since coming back and now at the age of 35 the Reds are hoping that he'll soon be available to return to their lineup in time for contribution to their stretch run in the race for another division championship.

Big things were expected of the outfielder when he signed an extension to stay in Cincinnati during the offseason. He started out slowly in 2012 after signing as a free agent, but his bat caught fire in mid-June to resuscitate his career which had seen production decline each season since his peak year in 2008. He hit .313/.381 OB with 18 home runs over his last eighty games and carried that momentum into the postseason where he went 6-18 with four walks and three homers against the Giants. He also provided the Reds with an elusive right-handed cleanup hitter that freed Brandon Phillips to return to the top of the lineup.

Overall last year Ludwick slashed a line of .275 AVG/.346 OB/.531 SLG with 25 HR/80 RBI. After his resurgence the Reds were happy to re-sign him and comments by GM Walt Jocketty indicated that he was excited about seeing their lineup perform in the upcoming season after rebuilding the top of it with Phillips's bat behind new leadoff hitter Shin-soo Choo and in front of Joey Votto. That expectation would never materialize after the first game, at least not yet.

Choo has been the leadoff hitter they wanted and his .421 OB% is currently second in the NL behind teammate Votto. Phillips has answered the call again cleaning up and is second in the league in RBI. Meanwhile they've tried different players batting second and even though Phillips has done well hitting fourth, the overall lineup potency could undergo an upgrade if he's able to return to the two-hole without compromising the cleanup spot. Jay Bruce has once again reached the 20-HR plateau and is a legitimate mid-lineup run producer, but manager Dusty Baker has always shown a reluctance to bat them consecutively to protect against both coming up against a lefty specialist in the late innings of games.

Assuming no further set-backs, the Reds should finally get the chance to see how their opening day lineup performs over the final two months of the season as they seek to overcome a five-run deficit behind division leader St. Louis. What aggravated Ludwick's injury even more was that their fourth outfielder Chris Heisey joined him on the DL for two months. They got decent coverage in the outfield from Xavier Paul and Derrick Robinson during that time, but neither is expected to be the kind of run producer that Ludwick was last season. Heisey has been back for twenty games over which he's hit .300/.383 OB with three homers. Ludwick's injury was more serious, but if he shows a similar recovery the Reds can finally enjoy the lineup they projected coming into the season clicking on all cylinders.

After a 15 year post season drought Cincinnati is now seeking their third division title in the last four seasons. Their pitching staff has by no means been immune to the injury bug either but though Johnny Cueto's lat problems have been persistent, they've still not been deemed long term. Their bullpen has overcome multiple injuries to come around and provide effectiveness recently that had been expected of them coming off a superb 2012 campaign. Choo has exceeded expectations defensively after moving to center field and Todd Frazier's glove has improved at the hot corner to provide top-notch team defense that has been typical of Cincinnati over the past few years. Good offense, good pitching, and strong defense are a reliable recipe for winning baseball games.

The Reds have five games to overcome and fifty-eight remaining games to get there. It won't be easy because the Cardinals have put a strong team on the field this season and currently boast the top record in the major leagues. Pittsburgh is also making noises like they're going to stay in the hunt until the end and it appears that either one or both of the NL wild card teams will come from the NL Central. A return to the lineup by a healthy Ludwick would provide a huge boost to Cincinnati achieving their goal of a championship season in 2013.

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The Reds dropped a low-scoring affair at Los Angeles when they lost 2-1 to the Dodgers. Homer Bailey was sharp on the mound again, but a two-run homer by Hanley Ramirez was enough to pin the loss on him. Those were the only two runs he allowed while giving up seven hits and a walk over seven innings that had five strikeouts. The Reds offense was held to six hits and a Jay Bruce single following a Brandon Phillips double in the seventh inning was the only time they managed to dent the plate.

Louisville lost 6-5 to visiting Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in ten innings. They took a three-run lead in the third when Dennis Phipps led off with a triple and scored on groundout. With two outs in that inning Billy Hamilton took his place at third by singling and advancing two bases on an errant pickoff attempt. Josh Fellhauer then walked before Neftali Soto and Felix Perez delivered two-out run-scoring singles. The Bats came back to tie the score in the eighth from an RBI-hit by Nevin Ashley. Finally, a two-out hit by Kristopher Negron plated another run in the tenth, but the inning ended short of erasing a two-run deficit. Phipps and Henry Rodriguez both finished the game going 3-4 with a walk while Perez and Negron added two hits each. Daniel Corcino had another short outing and allowed four runs off six hits and four walks in four-plus innings. Three relievers combined for four-plus scoreless innings before Pedro Villarreal allowed the go-ahead runs in the tenth for the loss.

Pensacola took a five-run lead after the third inning and held on for a 5-3 win at Mississippi. The Wahoos jumped out to an early lead in the first from a two-run double by Chris Berset who then scored on a Travis Mattair single. Those two struck again in the fourth with a run-scoring hit apiece. Mattair drew a couple of walks to go with his two hits and Mike Costanzo was a third batter to provide two hits to the fish attack. Yorman Rodriguez reached safely twice from a single plus a walk and scored two runs. Josh Smith got the win for allowing two runs on five hits without a walk over the first five innings. Trevor Bell shut the M-Braves out over the final two frames for the save.

Bakersfield fell behind early and never really challenged in their 6-1 loss at Lake Elsinore. Junior Arias did his job leading off and reached via a couple of hits and a walk and Juan Perez added a double and a single. The only Blaze run came from a solo homer by Kyle Waldrop in the fifth inning, his 15th dinger of the year. Mike Dennhardt got the start and was roughed up for five runs in four innings for the loss.

Billings fell behind when they allowed five runs in the fourth inning and came up short in their comeback attempt in a 9-7 loss at Helena. The Mustangs played some long-ball, getting a two-run home run from Jonathan Reynoso in the third, a three-run homer by Phil Ervin in the fifth, and a solo shot off Gabriel Rosa's bat in the sixth. Reynoso and Ervin finished with two hits each while Rosa reached from a walk in addition to his homer. Starter Jose Guzman took the loss for allowing six runs on seven hits over four innings.

The AZL Reds allowed two runs in the tenth inning in their 5-3 loss to the AZL Indians. Kevin Garcia kept his bat hot with three hits including a solo homer in the third. Corey Thompson stroked a couple of singles, drew a walk, and drove in a run while raising his average to .299. Starter Tyler Mahle got no decision for allowing two runs on two hits and two walks with two strikeouts over three innings. Bernardo Moretta relieved him with three scoreless frames and Oswaldo Meires took the loss for allowing two runs in two innings pitched.

The DSL Reds rallied for four runs in the fourth inning and held on for a 5-3 win over the DSL Giants. Geraldo Valor led the Reds with two hits including a two-run home run. Jacob Constante got the start, but it was a short one. He walked the first three batters faced, balked one home and was lifted before the end of the first inning over which he allowed two runs. Luis Gonzalez got the win for relieving him with three-plus scoreless innings, allowing only one hit and striking out three. Josue Castellano tossed a scoreless ninth for the save.

The DSL Rojos were pounded early and often in their 12-3 loss to the DSL Cubs. Jose Raga had two hits for the Rojos while Luis Gonzalez and Anthony Rubicondo had run-scoring hits in the sixth. John De Leon took the loss for allowing nine runs (eight earned) and was lifted in the second inning. Yerry Santos tossed three scoreless innings in relief.

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