Ludwick returns to Busch Stadium with Padres

BY foxsports • September 17, 2010

Ryan Ludwick returned to Busch Stadium on Thursday. Only this time, he got ready for the game in the visitors' clubhouse.

Ludwick was back in St. Louis for the first time since he was traded to San Diego on July 31 in the three-team swap that moved right-hander Jake Westbrook from Cleveland to the Cardinals. The popular right fielder was batting fifth in the opener of an important four-game series for the Padres.

''It was a first,'' Ludwick said about finding the visitors' locker room. ''A lot of strange feelings, you know, obviously emotional. I loved my time here. There's always going to be a huge place in my heart for St. Louis. I'm definitely excited to be back.

''I think when it comes to trades in the game of baseball, everyone knows it's a business. Things happen and you move on. I really couldn't control the trade.''

The other key part of the deal also was on display with Westbrook scheduled to start against right-hander Tim Stauffer. Westbrook, who played with Ludwick when he was with the Indians, was 1-3 with a 3.78 ERA with St. Louis heading into the game and 7-10 with a 4.41 ERA overall.

The trade gave more St. Louis pitching, which manager Tony La Russa was lobbying for. But the Cardinals entered the series against San Diego with a 17-24 record since the trade deadline, falling off the pace in the NL Central.

There was no rift between Ludwick and La Russa despite Ludwick not playing every day this season.

''I got to be thankful for Tony,'' Ludwick said. ''If it wasn't for Tony ... he gave me the opportunity to be an All-Star in the big leagues, to become the player that I am.''

Ludwick broke into the majors with Texas in 2002, and became an everyday player when he joined the Cardinals. His best season came in 2008, when he had 37 homers and 113 RBIs and made the NL All-Star team.

The 32-year-old slugger is batting just .228 with four homers and 18 RBIs in 42 games with San Diego, which began the day with a 22-22 record since July 31. He has a .263 average, 15 homers and 61 RBIs in 119 games overall.

Ludwick did not take long to answer what he missed the most about St. Louis.

''The fans,'' Ludwick said. ''My teammates were great and the coaching staff was great but the fans day in and day out were great.''

La Russa said Ludwick had no enemies.

''He's a favorite of everybody in this clubhouse,'' La Russa said. ''He's a guy you want to go out and succeed. You always pull for him to do really well.

Ludwick acknowledged he had thought about what kind of reaction he would get when he batted for the first time in Busch Stadium since the deal.

''I've talked to my wife, my brother, my family and even guys in the clubhouse, friends, I don't know what I'm going to get,'' Ludwick said. ''I don't know if I'll hear crickets. I would hope I wouldn't get any boos. Some people think I'm going to get a standing O. That would be super special. That would be very emotional if that happened and very much appreciated.''

The Padres have two other former Cardinals in shortstop David Eckstein and reliever Luke Gregerson, who leads the major leagues with 35 holds. Gregerson, who was traded by the Cardinals before he reached the big leagues, needs one more hold to tie the major league record set two other times.

Tom Gordon had 36 holds in 2004 with the New York Yankees. Scott Linebrink had 36 with the Padres in 2006.

The Cardinals traded Gregerson and reliever Mark Worrell to San Diego for shortstop Khalil Greene on Dec. 4, 2008, a deal that didn't work out well for St. Louis. Greene, plagued by social anxiety disorder, is out of baseball.