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Ryan Ludwick excited, relieved about new contract with Cardinals

Outfielder will earn $5.45 million in 2010

Ryan Ludwick avoided arbitration on Tuesday by agreeing to a one-year contract worth $5.45 million.

Ryan Ludwick avoided arbitration on Tuesday by agreeing to a one-year contract worth $5.45 million.

Outfielder Ryan Ludwick did more than just sign autographs at the Winter Warm-Up during his trip to St. Louis over the weekend.

Ludwick and the Cardinals spent time finalizing a one-year contract worth $5.45 million for 2010. The deal, which avoids arbitration between the two sides, is a raise of $1.75 million from his $3.7 million salary a year ago.

“I talked to them there at the Warm-Up and obviously my agent was in touch with them quite a bit,” Ludwick told Globe-Democrat.com Tuesday night. “We just hammered it out and got it done. I’m excited. I'm glad that I am going to be in a Cardinal uniform next year. I am really excited about the opportunities that we have as a team.”

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Ryan Ludwick talks to Globe-Democrat.com about his new contract

Ludwick, who hit .265 with 22 home runs and 97 RBIs last year, nearly went to an arbitration hearing with the Cardinals in 2009 before the two sides agreed to a one-year deal at the last minute. Negotiations went a lot faster this time around.

“I knew something would get done eventually but obviously to get it done early is nice,” Ludwick said. “I’m very grateful to have Mr. DeWitt and the rest of the ownership group on my side. John Mozeliak and (John Abbamondi) over there made the process go smoothly as soon as I got down there to St. Louis. I’m really excited about the upcoming season. I’m glad to get this behind me so we can focus as a team and get ready for the season.”

Skip Schumaker and the Cardinals were not able to reach agreement on a deal before the two sides exchanged salary figures on Tuesday. Schumaker submitted a request for $2.75 million and the Cardinals offered $1.45 million.

If the two sides somehow can’t agree to a deal, the case will go to a hearing in February where an arbitrator will hear arguments from both sides before choosing one of the two figures as Schumaker’s salary for 2010. The Cardinals haven’t gone to arbitration with a player since 1999, and it's likely that streak will not end this year.

The two sides will likely compromise on a deal worth about $2 million.

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Ryan Ludwick runs toward first base, hitting a two run RBI single in the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Busch Stadium on October 3, 2009.

The 31-year-old Ludwick battled injuries for the early part of his career, never playing in more than 47 games before appearing in 120 games for the Cardinals in 2007. He then had a breakout year in 2008, making his first NL All-Star team by hitting .299 with 37 home runs and 113 RBIs.

Ludwick battled a leg injury for part of 2009 but still was one of the Cardinals most productive hitters with runners in scoring position, hitting .323 in 58 at-bats with runners in scoring position. His 27 two-out RBIs ranked second on the team behind Albert Pujols (28).

“We are pleased to have reached an agreement with Ryan,” Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak said in a statement. “Ryan has proven to be a steady run-producer for our ballclub for the past two-plus seasons and we look forward to another strong season from him in 2010.”

The two sides declined to negotiate a multi-year deal, instead focusing on the one-year deal that was finalized Tuesday morning.

“As long as I can stay healthy and continue to play, I think things will work out down the road,” Ludwick said of the decision to sign a one-year deal. “I’m not too worried about two or three years down the road. I am worried about today. You can only control what’s in front of you right now and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Ludwick, who used the word ‘excited’ five times during the short phone interview, said he is glad he can head to Florida for spring training not having to worry about his contract status.

“The organization has always treated me extremely well,” Ludwick said. “I’m pretty fired up. It’s fun playing in front of that crowd. Being a Cardinal is obviously something special in my mind. I’ve been in some other organizations and to be able to play in front of a packed house every night, it’s quite an honor.”

Globe-Democrat.com sportswriter B.J. Rains can be reached at bjrains@globe-democrat.com

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