AP Baseball Writer
CINCINNATI (AP) -- Reds outfielder Ryan Ludwick returned to the clubhouse on Tuesday with his right arm in a bulky sling, still months away from being able to play again.
Ludwick tore cartilage in his right shoulder while sliding headfirst into third base during Cincinnati's season opener. He had surgery on April 3. Doctors expect him to miss at least the first half of the season.
"It's nice to be back," Ludwick said. "I feel like a ghost."
He can't do much during the first month, so it's difficult to tell how the shoulder is recovering so far.
"It's only been two weeks," he said. "They're saying it'll be three to four months. I have to wear (the sling) for two more weeks, and I can't wait to get it off."
Asked how his rehabilitation sessions are going, he said, "Slow. Boring. My range of motion is pretty good. The good thing is I've had four prior surgeries, so I know what it's about. I'm mentally prepared. One thing I've learned is I usually come back stronger. Once I get the sling off, it'll be better."
The defending NL Central champions have already suffered three significant injuries in the opening weeks. Left-handed reliever Sean Marshall is on the disabled list with a sore shoulder, and top starter Johnny Cueto went on the DL with a strained back on Monday.
When Ludwick got hurt, manager Dusty Baker moved Brandon Phillips into the cleanup spot. Phillips has batted in various spots in the lineup, including cleanup, but Baker had hoped to use him higher in the order this season.
Since taking over in the No. 4 spot, Phillips has batted .375. His bases-loaded single in the eighth inning sent the Reds to a 4-2 win over the Philadelphia Phillies in their series opener on Monday night.
"I liked him in the second spot," Baker said on Tuesday. "I liked him in the leadoff spot. At the time Ludwick got hurt, he was my logical choice. I wasn't worried about him. I had a lot of help telling me it should be (Todd) Frazier, it should be this guy, it should be that guy and not Brandon."
While Phillips excelled as the cleanup hitter, Frazier has gone into a 2-for-23 slump. Baker thinks Frazier could eventually be a cleanup hitter, but he's not ready for the role in his second season in the majors.
Baker said Phillips has the right approach to the fourth spot in the order. Phillips has 21 or fewer homers in six of his seven full big-league seasons, so he's not a prototypical cleanup hitter when it comes to power.
"Neither was Mark Grace," Baker said. "It's hard to find a prototypical cleanup man because a cleanup man -- that doesn't mean just hitting home runs, that means cleaning up. That's what that means. Everybody thinks the cleanup man just hits home runs in order to clean up. But the cleanup man, to me, is a man that cleans the bases up in a positive way via RBIs."
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