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02/08/12 2:06 PM EST
Ludwick ready to contribute for a contender
Slugging outfielder excited to join childhood favorite team
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
CINCINNATI -- Outfielder Ryan Ludwick might have been born in Florida, attended high school and college in Las Vegas and resides in Texas, but he's got Cincinnati in his blood. From his parents to his grandparents and various relatives and ancestors -- all were residents of the region, with many settled in nearby Georgetown, Ohio. "My family pretty much came off the boat and went to Cincinnati," Ludwick told MLB.com last month. "Eric Davis was my favorite player growing up. The Reds were my favorite team." It was just one appealing factor among many that led the free agent to agree to terms with the Reds on a one-year contract worth $2.5 million with a mutual option for 2013. The deal was finalized on Thursday. "I am in really good shape and I'm hoping I pass. There's really no reason I wouldn't," said Ludwick, who is expected to share playing time in left field with Chris Heisey. A career .261 hitter, Ludwick batted only .237 with 13 home runs and 75 RBIs last season in a combined 139 games for the Padres and Pirates. He's moved twice during the last two non-waiver Trade Deadlines. In 2010, Ludwick was sent from the Cardinals to the Padres and then from San Diego to Pittsburgh in '11. In 160 games spread over the parts of two seasons with the Padres, he batted .228 with 17 homers and 90 RBIs. "It's not a knock at San Diego or Pittsburgh, but it will be nice to be in control of the situation of where I want to play," Ludwick said. Ludwick's best numbers came in St. Louis from 2007-10, when he played for current Reds general manager Walt Jocketty. In '08, he hit a career-best 37 homers with 113 RBIs and won a National League Silver Slugger Award. Now with his fourth team in what will be three seasons, Ludwick is hopeful he can be successful again. "Any time you've been counted down and out like I have for a year and a half, it's tough on you mentally," Ludwick said. "I've been busting my butt to get back to where I was. I'll try to open some eyes, be a good teammate and help the club win. I think having another World Series in Cincinnati would be unbelievable. I'd like to get back to the playoffs myself. It's been since 2009 for me." Going back to the NL Central was another plus for Ludwick in joining the Reds. Even better was getting to play for an expected contender. The 33-year-old said he drew interest from "four or five" unspecified clubs, but only two of his suitors could be considered contenders for 2012. Getting to play at Great American Ball Park -- which is known for being as hitter friendly as San Diego's Petco Park is for being hitter unfriendly -- could be a boost offensively. In 30 games at GABP, Ludwick has a .921 OPS to go with a .276 batting average, nine homers and 21 RBIs. His lifetime OPS is .787, but it was only .659 with the Padres. The Reds' front office has demonstrated an "all-in" mentality this offseason about going for the division title in 2012. The club agreed to terms with premier free-agent closer Ryan Madson last week and made trades to acquire starting pitcher Mat Latos and lefty reliever Sean Marshall last month. Add those moves as three more factors that led Ludwick to Cincinnati. "That made a difference. I didn't get into serious talks until later [this winter]," Ludwick said. "It was a slow-moving market. It's crazy. I'm thankful I have a job." Ludwick is familiar with a few Reds players. He played in Triple-A in the Indians' organization with Brandon Phillips, and the two rode to the ballpark together. Ludwick was a Cardinals teammate with Scott Rolen. More recently, he played in Nolan Ryan's charity golf tournament with Drew Stubbs in Texas. "It seems like a good group of guys, and I am really excited," Ludwick said.