08/03/12 7:11 PM ET
Bucs helping J-Mac maintain realistic expectations
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
Pirates seeing what they had hoped for in Ludwick
CINCINNATI -- After being one of the Pirates' big additions at the 2011 Trade Deadline, Ryan Ludwick's two homers and 11 RBIs in 38 games did little to break the club's free-fall out of contention.In his last 14 games alone for the Reds, Ludwick has poked six homers and driven in 20 runs, as one of the main pistons behind their torrid pace. "He's confirming the fact our scouts were hoping for us to find last year. It's there," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. "It's been a real good fit for him in this lineup. We put a lot of attention on him and [fellow stretch-drive pickup] Derrek Lee to be run producers. [Ludwick] is probably not in the same place offensively than he was last year; he's worked to get back to this point. He's carried a load for the Reds." Ludwick's surge is one reason the Reds have not only survived since losing Joey Votto to knee surgery July 16, they have flourished. Cincinnati was 14-3 since, entering Friday night's opener of the series with the Bucs. "They lost the first two when he went out ... and they've lost one since," said Hurdle. "And [Brandon] Phillips is also banged up. They have a very deep, experienced bench. A tough lineup to deal with, from top to bottom. Speed, power. So they are one of the best teams in baseball, and the hottest."
Ta'Juan Dutrieuille of McKeesport, Pa., received one of a dozen college scholarships awarded to high school senior participants in MLB's Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program. Dutrieuille will be attending the Greater Allegheny campus of Penn State University as an engineering major. Disabled righty Juan Cruz (shoulder inflammation) threw 25 pitches, including breaking balls, to Gaby Sanchez and Alex Presley on Friday. The staff will monitor how he feels the next two days, and determine the next step on his comeback upon the club's Monday return to Pittsburgh. Friday night's game began a stretch of 20 straight playing days for the Pirates, whose next scheduled off-day will be Aug. 23. Manager Clint Hurdle confirmed there will be a need for one, perhaps two, spot starts from someone outside the current rotation. Kevin Correia is a logical candidate. Details will be forthcoming. Six of July's Pirates telecasts now rank as the six top-rated in the history of ROOT.
"We feel the excitement. We're playing the first-place team at the beginning of the month of August. As we continue to work and have our sights on bigger things ... this is as big as it has gotten for us."
-- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, sensing and responding to the buzz at Great American Ball Park for Bucs versus Reds, NL Central Showdown I.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.