Last week Pat Ludwig tossed seven shutout innings, giving up just two hits, one walk, and striking out seven. The outing was the second best in the Pirates system for the week, and was enough to earn Ludwig the Florida State League Pitcher of the Week award. Tonight was the first time Ludwig made a start since that outing. His follow up performance didn’t disappoint.
Ludwig once again went seven innings, giving up one run on four hits, with a walk and four strikeouts. That helped to lead the Bradenton Marauders to a 3-1 victory over Jupiter. Ludwig’s game score tonight was a 68, giving him his second straight gem. The right-hander worked off his two-seam fastball and cutter tonight, sitting in the 88-91 MPH range. He threw his curveball in the upper 70s, and threw his changeup in the low 80s.
“Changeup wasn’t the best tonight. It’s been better in the past,” Ludwig said after the start. “Curveball has improved a lot in the last couple of starts. Starting to be able to locate it, throw it for a strike, throw it for a strikeout whenever I want to. And that was something I had a lot of success with in college as a starter, so I’m starting to get back into that routine.”
The Pirates drafted Ludwig in the tenth round out of Yale in the 2012 draft. He had a slot value of $125,000, but was a signability pick, signing for $5,000 to create space for Mark Appel. Still, Ludwig had an intriguing arm, capable of hitting 94 MPH. He started in his three years at Yale, but has worked exclusively out of the bullpen up until recently. He was needed for a spot start in West Virginia, which had him stretched out. When Bradenton needed a starter, he was good to go, and they kept him in the rotation after that, gradually increasing his pitches. In his last two starts he has gone seven innings each, after topping out at 5.2 innings previously.
“It’s been a year since I started regularly, but starting to get back used to it, and my arm’s adjusting nicely,” Ludwig said.
The first two starts with Bradenton were impressive, as Ludwig combined for two earned runs on eight hits in nine innings. He followed that up with some poor outings, combining for 13 earned runs in 13.1 innings over his next three starts.
“We made a couple of adjustments after my first couple of starts, just trying to get my fastball to play better,” Ludwig said. He noted that the adjustments were switching to the other side of the rubber, which would give him more deception. He also focused on getting back to commanding the fastball.
“It’s clearly been working,” Ludwig said. “I’m not having to throw as many off-speed pitches. I’m not having to throw as many cut fastballs to get guys off of it and keep the ball on the ground. That’s just been a huge difference in my game so far.”
Coming into the season we had Ludwig as an interesting relief prospect due to the ability to hit 94 MPH, combined with the potential for the curveball to be an out pitch. Ludwig looked great tonight in the rotation, using all of his pitches, but primarily getting ahead of hitters by attacking with his fastball. He doesn’t have dominant stuff to make it as a starter, so his upside is probably still as a reliever. However, his experience in the rotation should give him plenty of playing time, which will give him additional innings to improve the quality of his breaking ball, and improve his fastball command.
Willy Garcia Leaves With Minor Injury
Willy Garcia left tonight’s game in the third inning after sliding into third base. Garcia hit a two RBI double to reach base, bringing in Ashley Ponce and Benji Gonzalez with two outs. In the next at-bat, Garcia broke for third on a pitch in the dirt. The throw was late, but Garcia slid hard into the bag, going in with his left foot first. He stayed on the ground until the trainer came out, then had trouble putting weight on his leg as he was getting up. Garcia needed help walking off the field, and was replaced by Junior Sosa.
It ended up being a minor knee injury, as Garcia was walking around after the game with ice on the knee.
**You only need one look at Gift Ngoepe on the field to remember that he’s the best defensive shortstop in the system. He’s got good hands, a strong arm, and he has smooth moves on the field. That “one play” for me tonight was in the second inning when Ngoepe, in one fluid motion, fielded a ball to the left of the bag, stepped on the bag, and threw a bullet to first for the easiest 6-3 double play you’ve ever seen. Ngoepe’s issue is that he hasn’t been hitting, and while he is hitting in high-A, he’s still striking out 35% of the time. He is going to have a future because of the speed and defense, but it would be hard to find a spot for him in the majors unless he finds a way to show some marginal offensive ability.
**Orlando Castro has moved to the bullpen in Bradenton this month, mostly due to innings. Castro is currently at 102 innings on the season, after throwing 52 the previous year. Prior to that he had 57.1 innings in 2011 and 54 innings in 2010, so this has been a huge jump for him.
**Joan Montero was sitting 91-94 MPH with his fastball, also throwing a hard breaking slider in the 87 MPH range. However, he lacked control, walking three batters in less than an inning. Montero had a great outing last week where he threw five shutout innings with no walks, but the control problems are still there, and will probably hold him back from Double-A.