Not a great start to the season for the Cincinnati Reds. Starting Left Fielder Ryan Ludwick suffered a dislocated right shoulder and torn labrum while sliding awkwardly into 3rd base during the Reds’ season-opening loss to the Angels. Ludwick will undergo surgery this week and is expected to miss a minimum of 3 months, which to me is a very generous time frame. That places his expected return at the beginning of July, but I really don’t think I can seen Ludwick back in the lineup prior to the All-Star break.
So what exactly does this injury mean? Well, he basically has lost the anterior (front) stability of his shoulder, as a dislocation occurs due to tearing of the joint capsule and associated structures that surround the ball-and-socket joint that allows the head of the humerus (ball) to slip forward relative to the glenoid fossa (socket). With shoulder dislocations, there is typically an associated pathology to the labrum, which is a ring of cartilage along the rim of the glenoid fossa that increases the actual depth of the shoulder joint, allowing for increased stability without compromising mobility. The orientation of the shoulder joint is like a golf ball sitting on a tee, not much coverage along the outsides of the ball. What the labrum does is change that orientation to more of a golf ball in a shot glass, but does this without sacrificing the mobility of the shoulder. So you’re able to perform overhead motions move the shoulder in six degrees of freedom because of the static (labrum, joint capsule) and dynamic (rotator cuff, scapular muscles) stabilizers of the shoulder.
So how does this type of injury/surgery affect his playing ability? Well, for a guy who throws left handed, he should be ok defensively. He shouldn’t be limited too much in the field except for reaching up/diving for balls. However, this type of injury will have a serious effect on his ability to generate power at the plate. His bat speed could suffer upon return, especially at the beginning of his return to play, as he’ll have difficulty transferring the forces produced by his legs through the shoulder to the bat due to typical post-op weakness. He’ll also be very gun-shy with sliding headfirst when he comes back, so watch for his aggressiveness on the basepaths to take a hit as well.
It’s hard to say at this point what the exact timeline is for Ludwick. His surgeons will go in, see the extent of the damage to the labrum/articular cartilage/musculature and determine his prognosis at that point. If all goes well and he recovers nicely during rehab, you’re typically talking at least 4 months, sometimes extending all the way to month 5 or 6. This is a very touchy area that can haunt him for the rest of his career, so rushing back from this procedure could be very costly to Ludwick long term if not handled properly.
Fantasy-wise, expect Chris Heisey to get the bulk of playing time at first, but it’s going to be difficult to expect the same production we saw from Ludwick last season. There will be a dropoff, but the strong lineup that Cincy has out there should help mask some of the loss the offense will feel without their starting left fielder.