Ludwick’s Lengthy Baseball Journey Included Brief Stop in Cleveland
By Craig Gifford
These days, Ryan Ludwick is a power hitter in the middle of the batting order for a Cincinnati Reds team that has World Series aspirations. Things were not always a bowl of cherries for the 34-year-old outfielder. To get to a world of big league success, Ludwick first had to bounce around the minor leagues and several organizations.
Among Ludwick’s early stops was the Cleveland Indians. The Tribe was actually Ludwick’s third club, however, the first to give him any prolonged shot at the majors.
Ludwick was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the second round of the 1999 draft. However, he never saw a glare of sun in the A’s ballpark. He was traded to the Texas Rangers in 2002, where he played a total of 31 games between that season and 2003. On July 18, 2003, with the the Indians in complete rebuild mode, the Tribe made a minor deal to land the once top prospect. Cleveland shipped off little-known pitcher Ricardo Rodriguez and outfielder Shane Spencer for the 24-year-old.
While Ludwick spent most of his time with the Indians in the minor leagues, he did got shots with the big squad in three straight seasons. However, Ludwick never did quite enough to stick long-term. Still, though, he did show flashes of being a solid home run hitter. In 73 games with the Wahoo Warriors, Ludwick hit 13 long balls – translating to nearly 30 over a full 162-game schedule.
Following the 2005 campaign, the Tribe allowed Ludwick to look for work elsewhere. At 26, he landed with the Detroit Tigers. However, he did not play a single game in the Motor City in 2006, playing that year exclusively in Triple-A.
Finally, in 2007, the season Ludwick would turn 28, the former high draft choice had his chance to break out. He had signed with St. Louis in the offseason and the Cardinals made the former Indian a regular. St. Louis was rewarded nicely. Ludwick hit 14 homers in 120 games his first season with the Cards. In 2008, he really burst out in a big way. Finally fulfilling his promise of nine years prior, Ludwick mash 37 taters to go with 113 RBI. He was a National League All-Star and took home a Silver Slugger award after the big year.
Unfortunately, for Ludwick, that all star campaign stands alone. He has not hit 30 homers since, though he has remained productive. After a 22-homer season in 2009, St. Louis traded Ludwick to San Diego in the middle of 2010. It was a three-team deal that included the Tribe, oddly enough. In the deal, Cleveland landed Corey Kluber, who is now thought to have a strong chance to be in the Indians starting rotation in 2013.
At the 2011 trade deadline, Ludwick became Pittsburgh’s first big acquisition in years at the mid-season point. The Pirates, who were having a surprisingly good year, were buyers for once and made Ludwick their prime pickup for the stretch run. Ludwick was not able to push Pittsburgh over the top, however.
Following that season, the Reds took a flyer on Ludwick whose power numbers had dipped to 13 bombs and 75 RBI in 2011. Ludwick became a key part of Cincy’s run to the NL Central championship last season, jacking 26 round-trippers and 80 RBI. His average was at .275. At 34, it appears Ludwick may have found his hitting shoes again. He seems to have finally found a place to stick, after years of roaming the baseball landscape. Two weeks ago, it was reported he came to terms on a two-year deal with the Reds. He should be a key cog in Cincy’s hopes to reach a World Series in 2013. He will form a formidable middle of the line up with form Indians Shin-Soo Choo and Brandon Phillips and, of course, Joey Votto.
The Indians my have given Ludwick as a good a chance as anyone to make it in baseball in the early part of this century. However, no matter what Ludwick produces over the remainder of his career, he will not be remembered for his days in Progressive Field. His career with the Tribe was halted after a mere 73 games. He has played 915 games, with 143 home runs and both are sure to rise before Ludwick hangs up his cleats for good.
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