COMMENTARY| The return of ace Johnny Cueto this week from the disabled list settled the Cincinnati Reds' most important short-term injury issue. The Reds still have their two primary left fielders on the disabled list, but as long as the Reds continue to work their way toward the top of the NL Central division, no one in Reds Country will worry too much. Reds general manger Walt Jocketty revealed that the team has yet to find a right-handed hitter worth filling the left field void. That could still change with time if the injury situation worsens or the current replacement platoon in left field for the Reds starts to falter.
Ryan Ludwick earned a two-year, $15 million free agent deal this past off-season after a splendid comeback year as the cleanup hitting, left fielder for the Reds in 2012, but a shoulder injury suffered during an ill-advised headfirst slide into third base on opening day put an end to most of Ludwick's 2013 season. Recuperation from shoulder surgery and game rehab will most likely keep Ludwick out of action until the end of July. As long as his replacement in the cleanup spot -- Brandon Phillips -- continues to rank among the leaders in the NL in RBIs, Ludwick's bat won't be missed much.
Chris Heisey had the opportunity to replace Ludwick in left field and bat second in the batting order. Unfortunately for Heisey, a slow start and a hamstring injury have kept him from seizing that opportunity. Heisey was placed on the disabled list April 29 and was pulled from a rehab game on May 13 after re-straining the hamstring in the field. Heisey will most likely return in June, but his absence in left field has been filled well by a platoon trio of Xavier Paul and rookies Derrick Robinson and the German-raised Donald Lutz. Heisey's primary value is as a fourth outfielder who can effectively man all three outfield positions. He was replaced in the two-hole by Zack Cozart even before his injury because he was ineffective at the plate.
Heisey's eventual return will probably force one of the rookies replacing him back to the minors. The emergence of Lutz straight from Double A has complicated the left field milieu to the point that Lutz looks like he belongs in the majors for a long, long time, which could relegate Heisey to the primary role of right-handed bat off the bench and late-inning defensive replacement.
The platoon trio of Paul, Robinson and Lutz has batted .275 in 142 at-bats with 18 runs scored and 20 RBIs.
The Reds also lost lefty reliever Manny Parra to the disabled list retroactive to April 24 with a strained left pectoral muscle. Parra was ineffective prior to his injury, posting an 8.10 ERA in six games. Currently rehabbing in Double A, Parra might have to toil in the minors until a spot is cleared for his return. Even then, right-handed reliever Jose Arredondo might get the call before Parra, in part because Arredondo has fared better against left-handed hitters (.190 batting average) than right-handed hitters (.256) during his major league career.
The Reds have more or less moved on from former bullpen workhorse Nick Masset, who didn't pitch at all in 2012 due to a shoulder injury and hasn't pitched in 2013 either. Masset had an effective career with the Reds (3.07 ERA in 241 games). He is in the final year of a two-year, $5.5-million deal and may not pitch again for the Reds
Robb Hoff has worked as a freelance researcher for ESPN's production and news departments for the past five years. You can read his articles about the 2012 Reds season here.
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