Just because Brandon Phillips is uncomfortable batting cleanup doesn’t mean he can’t do it.
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After being moved on April 18 from leadoff to cleanup, Cincinnati’s second baseman needed some time to adjust and shake off the lingering effects of a leg injury before finally starting to produce at his Silver Slugger level.
Phillips is hitting .331 (47-for-142) with seven home runs and 31 runs batted in over his last 36 games.
“I’ve been struggling when I have runners in scoring position since moving to the fourth spot,” said Phillips, whose two-run homer Friday ended up driving in the decisive runs in Cincinnati’s 7-3 win over the Mets. “There’s always room for improvement. I try to do the best I can do from the four-hole, try to protect Joey Votto as much as possible.”
Phillips’ surge was a payoff for the patience displayed by manager Dusty Baker.
“Everybody wants somebody else to bat cleanup, but this guy is closing in on 40 RBI in his time and he’s hitting batting cleanup,” Baker said. “So other than Joey, he’s the next best, I think, with runners in scoring position for a large number of opportunities. So it is nice to get him swinging good.”
Phillips might find himself being moved back to leadoff just as he’s warming up to the cleanup role. Scott Rolen, out since May 12 with a strained left shoulder, was hoping to be activated as early as Monday after completing a weekend rehab assignment with Triple-A Louisville.
Reds give Dusty a nice birthday present
–The Reds helped manager Dusty Baker celebrate his 63rd birthday on Friday by moving a season-high nine games over .500 with their 7-3 win over the Mets.
–RHP Homer Bailey will make his second try at climbing over the .500 mark for the second time this season when he starts on Saturday night against the Mets. Bailey left his last start Sunday against Detroit with a 6-3 lead, only to end up with a no-decision in a 7-6 Reds loss.
–RHP Johnny Cueto, coming off his second complete game of the season in Tuesday’s 7-1 win over Cleveland, will be looking for his first career win against the Mets when he starts on Sunday. Cueto is 0-3 with a 6.58 ERA in five starts against the Mets. He allowed nine hits and five runs in his only start at Citi Field.
–3B Scott Rolen went 1-for-3 Friday in the opener of his two-game rehab assignment at Class AAA Louisville. He’s scheduled to play there again on Saturday.
–LHP Bill Bray struck out the side in his only inning of work during a rehab appearance for Triple-A Louisville on Thursday. Bray, on the disabled list since April 24 with groin and back problems, made another appearance with the Bats on Friday and this time gave up two runs on two hits and a walk in two-thirds of an inning. The Reds consider getting through appearances on consecutive days with no problems crucial to Bray being activated.
–RHP Nick Masset, sidelined all season with shoulder problems, was placed on the 60-day disabled list Friday to make room on the 40-man roster for utility player Willie Harris, who was called up to replace OF Drew Stubbs on the active roster. Stubbs was placed on the disabled list, retroactive to June 6, with a strained left oblique.
BY THE NUMBERS: 1 — Starts in center field by Wilson Valdez, who made his first of the season Friday night against the Mets in New York. Valdez is the third player to start in center for the Reds this season. Drew Stubbs went on the disabled list, retroactive to June 6, with a strained left oblique, and Chris Heisey is nursing a mild left groin strain.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “Earlier, everybody was complaining about us not hitting the ball. In due time, it takes time for people to come together and start getting hits. It’s basically a pitching and defense team, but we can always hit. Once we start getting key hits in key situations, I feel like nobody can really beat us. We’re starting to come around.” — 2B Brandon Phillips on the Reds’ offense starting to produce as expected.
–OF Chris Heisey (mild left groin strain) left the June 14 game and did not play June 15. It is not believed to be serious.
–C Devin Mesoraco (sore side, flu) left the June 14 game. He didn’t play June 15, and he might try to take batting practice June 16.
–CF Drew Stubbs (strained oblique, flu) was injured swinging at a pitch June 5 and then had the flu, and did not play again before being placed on the 15-day disabled list June 15, retroactive to June 6.
–LHP Bill Bray (strained left groin) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 19. He began a rehab assignment with Class AAA Louisville on April 29, but he moved back to extended spring training in Goodyear, Ariz., after one outing. He resumed throwing May 28, and he threw a bullpen session June 1. He made rehab appearances for Class A Dayton on June 9, 11, 14 and 15.
–RHP Nick Masset (right shoulder inflammation) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 26. He threw on flat ground May 24 for the first time and now is throwing 120 feet. He was transferred to the 60-day disabled list on June 15. There is no timetable for his return.
–3B Scott Rolen (strained left shoulder) went on the 15-day disabled list May 12. On June 6, he took batting practice on the field for the first time since he was injured. He will do a brief rehab assignment at Class AAA Louisville June 15 and 16. If all goes well, he’ll join the team June 18 in Cleveland and be activated.
–RHP Ryan Madson (Tommy John surgery in April 2012) went on the 60-day disabled list April 4. He is out for the season.