Ludwick isn't worried about his poor July

Numbers behind numbers sparked trade with Padres

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PHILADELPHIA -- In the final 18 hours before Sunday's non-waiver trade deadline, the Pirates added two veteran hitters to a team that has struggled to score runs.

Minutes before the 4 p.m. deadline, the Pirates acquired San Diego Padres left fielder Ryan Ludwick for a player to be named later or cash. Ludwick will join Derrek Lee, who the Pirates got Saturday night, in an effort to bolster the lineup.

"That's a professional player," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, who had Ludwick on the National League All-Star team in 2008, after a 6-5 loss Sunday to the Philadelphia Phillies. "I spent a few days, got to know him a little bit and had some conversations at times since. He plays hard, he's a pro, he's been able to be a run producer."

Ludwick played in the National League Central Division with the St. Louis Cardinals for four years and is familiar with the Pirates' past struggles and current resurgence.

"It's a beautiful ballpark," Ludwick said by phone Sunday night, referring to PNC Park. "A lot of nights it was half full. From what I'm hearing, people are really excited around the city. To be a part of something like that, I think that's a great situation to be in."

Ludwick, 33, has hit .238 for the Padres this season with 11 home runs and 64 RBIs. He hit .314 in May, but the production has dropped as the season progressed. He hit .172 in July.

"It's a game of adjustments and I've always had ups and downs in this game," Ludwick said, noting that he felt better at the plate in recent games. "I'm not worried about what happened yesterday."

A right-handed hitter, he had his best season with the Cardinals in 2008, hitting .299 with 37 home runs. His production fell somewhat in 2009, then hit a wall in '10 when he was traded to the Padres and spacious Petco Park at last year's trade deadline.

"As we looked at the numbers behind the numbers, there's every indication in the world that Ryan is going to build upon [his statistics] and has a great chance to be very solid for us these two months," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. "Sometimes the surface numbers can be a little bit misleading and in our minds in Ryan Ludwick's case, they're very misleading. There's every reason to believe he's going to be a more productive surface-level hitters than his surface-level numbers seem to indicate."

Kevin Correia, who played with Ludwick for the final two months of the 2010 season with the Padres, said Ludwick is an easy-going person who can assimilate to the new clubhouse and will also help the offense.

"He can drive the ball to right-center," Correia said. "I think that works well in our park. If you're going to get a right-handed hitter it's good to have a guy that can go gap to gap kind of like he can."

Neither Hurdle nor Huntington would specify exactly how the Pirates plan to use Ludwick. The Pirates designated right-hander Mike Crotta for assignment to make room for Ludwick on the 40-man roster, but have to make two moves on the active roster for Ludwick and Lee.

"Ryan was brought in here to help us win games," Huntington said.

"As we move forward and begin to get healthy, we'll see where we are at that point in time."

The Pirates owe Ludwick about $2.2 million of his $6,775,000 million salary. They owe Lee about $2.6 million, adding a total of $4.8 million to the payroll for the rest of the season. Ludwick's salary, along with Lee's $7.25 million full-season salary, make them the highest-paid Pirates this season.

"There is still flexibility to add payroll," Pirates president Frank Coonelly said before Sunday's game. "Not unlimited, of course, but there's still flexibility to add payroll."

Huntington said no money for the base salary of either player was included in the trades. Huntington also said the Pirates explored major trades, but never thought they were close to completing one given the price in prospects required to make a deal.

"There were some guys in our system that were going to be extremely tough to give up, based on future control, based on the big picture of the player coming back," he said. "I can't say we were afraid or unwilling to give up anybody in particular but as we began to look at the packages that it would take it became a decision we felt was probably better to go in a different direction."

The Pirates inquired about relief pitchers, Huntington said, but could not find the right fit, and ran into trouble with players refusing to waive no-trade clauses. They could continue to discuss trades in the next month, though players have to clear waivers before teams can trade them.

"There are a good number of players that we've got some level of interest in that may or may not get to us," he said.


Bill Brink: bbrink@post-gazette.com .


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