In his games with Class A Dayton and Triple-A Louisville, Ludwick was only 6-for-44 with one home run. But there were no issues with the surgically-repaired right shoulder that sustained a torn labrum on Opening Day.
"At the plate, it's been tougher than I thought, to be honest with you," Ludwick said. "Breaking it down, I hit for two and a half months before I go to Spring Training. Then you have all camp to get ready and everyone is starting on an even playing field. I hit for a week and a half and got thrown right in the fire with everybody in midseason form. The timing of the game has been tough. But I felt like it got better little by little.
"My shoulder and body feel really good. My swing was long at times. I made a diving play headfirst, which I wasn't supposed to do, but it was kind of instinct. I got through that test."
The lack of production and hurried timetable to get his swing back together wasn't an overriding concern for Ludwick. He felt that his experience and preparation using video would be to his benefit.
"Take a guy like [Travis Wood ], who we're going to face Monday. I already see him in my head," Ludwick said. "I know exactly what his ball is going to do. I know how he pitches me and how he attacks me. I didn't face one guy down there that I knew.
"Obviously the performance wasn't great, but it got better. I finished up the last four games. I got a hit in each game. I hit a home run, which mentally for me was a big hurdle to show that I had power. Now it's getting the consistency of the swing and trying to get in season form as quickly as possible."
Although Ludwick was the Reds' cleanup hitter entering the season, Baker plans to use him from the sixth spot on Monday. Current cleanup hitter Brandon Phillips is among league leaders in RBIs this season.
"First, we have to see what he's bringing to the table. Is he the same Luddy?" Baker said. "He's operating from behind. We certainly missed him. This guy is a run producer. It's hard to put him right in Jay Bruce's [fifth] spot even though Jay has had a lot of opportunities to drive in runs. It's hard to ease him into Brandon's spot because he's really come through in that situation."
Ludwick batted .275 with 26 home runs and 80 RBIs in 2012 and was re-signed to a two-year, $15 million contract over the winter. At Wrigley Field in 40 games lifetime, he is batting .331 with nine homers and 36 RBIs.
Those numbers, and the Reds' lack of right-handed run production this season, had given fans expectations that Ludwick will deliver immediately upon returning.
"I wouldn't say it's unfair," Ludwick said. "I helped this team out a little bit last year and I think that's what they're expecting this year. I signed a two-year deal. Being a guy that came in hitting cleanup on this team at the beginning of the season, there's a lot of expectations for any player in that slot in the order."