CINCINNATI — Jack Hannahan watched what Ryan Ludwick went through last year and took note. Ludwick tore a labrum in his right shoulder on Opening Day and it took a diligent rehab process for him return to the Reds lineup in August.
Hannahan is hoping his season-long quest to do more than watch his teammates from the bench comes to a conclusion soon.
The Reds are re-evaluating Hannahan Saturday to see if the right shoulder he had surgery on last October is healed enough to allow the utility infielder back on the roster. Hannahan may not be the big bat addition that rights the Reds in an instant but at this point of the season, when a seven-game losing streak is threatening to drop them from contention, any bit of help is a positive.
Hannahan took batting practice and infield at first base prior to Saturday’s game against Washington at Great American Ball Park. He is eligible to be activated off of the DL at any point.
The rehab process is always going to raise more doubts in a 34-year-old like Hannahan than if it was a younger player attempting to come back. Hannahan’s locker is just a few away from Ludwick, who recently turned 36. Part of veteran experience is knowing where to learn lessons.
"It’s been real tough mentally. It’s been a real challenge," said Hannahan. "It’s not easy to watch knowing you can’t play, knowing you can’t help your teammates out especially when they need you. But I watched Luddy do it last year, come in and work hard and support the guys in any way he could and I just tried to follow that.
"Being banged up and not being able to contribute is frustrating, especially with the way things have gone this year, especially with guys getting banged up. I was brought here to do a job, to fill-in for these guys and it’s frustrating not being able to do that."
Hannahan has been on the 60-day disabled list since the start of the season. He was eligible to come off the DL on May 29 but had a setback during his initial rehab process. He worked his way back and began a rehab assignment on July 8 with Single-A Dayton. After four games with the Dragons he went to Triple-A Louisville and played eight games with the Bats. He went 4-for-12 with Dayton and had eight hits in his last 14 at-bats with Louisville after going hitless in his first 14 at-bats.
"The main thing was seeing pitches and being able to recognize pitches, getting your legs back under you and getting back out there and playing," said Hannahan. "It’s kind of like my spring training. It’s everything that comes along with spring training. About a week-and-a-half in I started recognizing pitches better and I was putting some good swings on balls."
The Reds signed Hannahan in Dec. 2012 to be a backup at third base and first base. He played in 83 games for them last season, hitting .216 with 14 RBI and an on-base percentage of .317. Manager Bryan Price said if/when Hannahan returns he would be used at first base and as a left-handed bat off the bench.
Votto’s extended absence due to a distal quad strain in his left knee has forced Price to use a combination of Brayan Pena, Todd Frazier, Donald Lutz and Jay Bruce at first base. None of them had any excessive experience playing the position, although Frazier did make 35 starts at first base in 2012 when Votto was out of the lineup due to knee surgery. Pena has started 21 times there this season in place of Votto.
"(Hannahan) wants to help the team," said Price. "He’s a consummate team guy. He’s aware that we need him to be maybe not at 100 percent full strength but we need him to be capable of doing some things on a regular basis and also being conditioned to the point where he can help us. If he doesn’t get enough at-bats or his swing’s not ready we’re not doing him a service because he’s not getting to play every day when he gets here.
"My opinion is I think you could say today he’s ready to help. That’s my guess."