CINCINNATI — Ryan Ludwick stood in front of his locker bemoaning the fact that he has only two home runs on his 2014 resume when he glanced at a clubhouse television.
The Colorado Rockies were playing the Kansas City Royals and Ludwick saw Drew Stubbs slowly circling the bases and said, "Look at that. A home run by Drew Stubbs. He has more than me (three)."
Ludwick candidly admits that he’d rather hit a bushel basket full of home runs than hit .300.
"That’s why I’m a little frustrated right now that I haven’t hit many home runs," said. "That’s where I get my adrenaline rush. I’d rather hit for a lower average with more power than be a guy hitting .300. That’s just me."
And to that effect he is trying everything he can to find a way to propel a few balls over the fence. "I alter my swing a little bit, try something different. Small things. Open the stance a little bit. Take a heftier swing. Back off on the swing. Stay on top of the ball more. Get underneath the ball a little more. I’m trying everything."
It isn’t all on his shoulders, because it has become a team concept, but Ludwick realizes that a few more home runs off his bat might stop his team’s trend of losing one-run games, a major league-leading 12 so far.
"And we have six one-run wins," he said. "That’s a lot, isn’t it? It’s a long season. We’ll take off. We just have to stick around. We haven’t scored a lot of runs and so far we haven’t found that dynamic in the lineup."
Amazing, Ludwick has reached base by catcher’s interference this year more times than he has performed his home run trot — two homers, three catcher’s interference.
"I led the league one year in getting on base through catcher’s interference, six times," he said. "I don’t try to do it. But I want to make a run at Joey Votto’s on-base average (.412) I might start trying."
Ludwick said his propensity for whacking the catcher’s glove with his bat is that he stays back on pitches as long as he can before he swings, especially with runners in scoring position.
"I don’t want to swing early and duck hook a ball to the left side," he said. "I want to wait and hit it from up the middle to the right side. I always stand on the back line, but right now I’m in the mind frame to see the ball as deep as possible because pitchers are pitching me away a lot, especially sliders down and away. I don’t want to chase those down-and-away pitches, I tr to back it up as much as possible.
"A couple of times I’ve struck out with less than two outs and a runner on second and I take a lot of pride in what I do with runners in scoring position," he said. One time this year he had a runner on third with no outs and put his plan into motion — let the pitch get deep. He did. He swung. His bat ticked the catcher’s mitt and Ludwick was on first base.
Ludwick is playing left field these days for the Cincinnati Reds, but the 35-year-old former No. 2 draft pick of the Oakland A’s (1999) is comfortable at all three outfield spots and began his career as center fielder.
Almost unnoticed this year has been his defensive play — taking away a home run, making some diving catches, running down balls in the gap.
"Sometimes my defense gets overlooked because I’m not the fastest guy out there," he said. "When I cam up in center field I wasn’t the fastest guy then, either. I pride myself on things that people don’t take into account — the jump I can get on a ball and the route I take to the ball.
"You can take a faster guy taking a less direct route to the ball and he is not going to cover as much ground," said Ludwick. "I’ve played all three a lot in my career and at all three positions I feel I can read the ball off the bat."
Ludwick laughed and said, "Sometimes it looks as if I’m being lazy out there but sometimes I’ll get a good jump, but I know right away I’m not going to get there and I go into the off-the-wall mode. And it it is going into the corner I don’t need to sprint to the corner because it is a sure-fire double anyway. I make sure I don’t turn it into a triple.
Ludwick paused and said, "It is really, really nice for somebody to notice that I can play defense and I appreciate it."
Not as much as his manager and pitchers appreciate it.