CINCINNATI — Reds outfielder Ryan Ludwick is expected to miss at least three months following surgery on Wednesday to repair torn cartilage in his right shoulder.
Ludwick dislocated his non-throwing shoulder while sliding into third base in Cincinnati’s opening 3-1, 13-inning loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Monday. An MRI a day later found the cartilage tear.
The Reds initially were reluctant to put a timeframe on his return, waiting to see what doctors found during the surgery. Manager Dusty Baker was told that Ludwick could be out for 13 to 14 weeks.
“Hopefully sometime after the All-Star break we’ll get a fresh and new player back,” Baker said.
The Reds put Ludwick on the 15-day disabled list and called up outfielder Derrick Robinson to make his major league debut. Chris Heisey, who has been a reserve outfielder the last few years, will get a chance to play in left field full-time.
“I haven’t done it for four years now, I guess,” Heisey said. “I’ve done it for stretches of two or three weeks, but for a long stretch of time I haven’t. It’ll be an adjustment, but I’m looking forward to it.”
Ludwick played a leading role in the Reds’ drive to their second NL Central title in three years last season. When first baseman Joey Votto tore cartilage in his knee, Ludwick became the Reds’ top run producer. He batted .340 with 12 homers and 36 RBIs during the 48 games that Votto missed.
Ludwick also led the team with three homers during a first-round playoff loss to San Francisco. The Reds brought the 34-year-old outfielder back on a two-year, $15 million deal.
Baker moved second baseman Brandon Phillips into Ludwick’s cleanup spot Wednesday for the second game of the series against the Angels, batting between left-handers Votto and Jay Bruce. Heisey was in the second spot.
Heisey started 80 games last season, playing all three outfield spots.
“For Heisey, this is his opportunity,” Baker said. “I hope he doesn’t put too much pressure on himself. It’s his opportunity for extended play. I’m making it as easy on him as I can, to bat in front of Joey Votto. It’s up to him.”
When Votto — the 2010 National League MVP — got hurt last season, the Reds were looking at a long stretch without their top hitter. They won 97 games and the division title with other players taking the lead on offense.
“This is a very resilient team,” Baker said. “We just have to find a way. It’s a big blow, especially in the middle of our lineup. He’s one of the leaders on the team. But much like last year with Joey, I hope we have the same success with whoever’s taking Ryan Ludwick’s place.
“We missed Joey for 50 games last year. Everybody wrote us off then. But this team has a way of coming together.”
The Reds don’t have an experienced outfielder in the minors who was the obvious choice to fill in. Robinson had a solid spring training and impressed the Reds with his speed, something their roster lacks. Baker said that gave him the advantage over others.
Billy Hamilton wasn’t a viable option. He stole a record 155 bases in the minors last season, but is a career shortstop just learning to play outfield. He will start at Triple-A Louisville for the first time in his career.
“I know a lot of people want Hamilton, but Hamilton has a lot to learn and is still a ways (away),” Baker said. “We don’t know how he’s going to do at Triple-A. By process of elimination, (Robinson) was the guy that looked the best and was the guy we thought could help us.”
The 25-year-old outfielder was solid all-around during spring training, which worked in his favor.
“Everything I did, I was focused,” Robinson said. “I didn’t give away any at-bat or was lackadaisical in the outfield or fell asleep on the base paths.”