Phillips Makes Rehab Start

There was a reason for Reds fans to get excited over Louisville’s game against Indianapolis on Friday. The final result of the blowout loss was very forgettable, but it was Brandon Phillips first rehab appearance as he works to get back into the Reds’ injury plagued lineup and try to keep his team in the hunt for postseason.

Louisville carried a scoreless game through three frames but then allowed four run rallies in both of the next two innings en route to a 9-0 home loss to Indianapolis. The Bats offense was limited to five hits as they failed to get more than one runner on base in all but one inning. Logan Ondrusek got a rehab start and navigated around two hits in a scoreless first inning before giving way to Scott Diamond. Diamond did not fare so well and was roughed up for seven runs in three-plus innings for the loss.

Another player making a rehab appearance was All Star second baseman Brandon Phillips who saw his first action since injuring his wrist on July 9. He finished 0-2 with a walk before leaving the game in a double switch for a new pitcher in the eighth. He showed a little rust in the field by making an error which is atypical for the multiple gold glover.

Just the act of making a rehab appearance is enough for Cincinnati fans to expect the longtime Reds veteran back in the lineup soon and he’ll be a welcome addition for manager Bryan Price who has dealt with a plethora injuries throughout the season. The rest of the NL has helped them out by keeping them in the hunt for postseason despite their record falling below .500 in their series opening loss at Colorado Thursday. To have a chance the Reds must finish the season with an impressive run and their chance for making a third consecutive playoff appearance dwindles each day until that commences.

Actually if someone said before the beginning of the season that come the middle of August when the Reds were fighting to make up ground in the stretch run they would be turning in a starting lineup card with an infield of Jack Hannahan, Ramon Santiago, and Kris Negron they probably would have received a look of skepticism. However that’s exactly what Price did Friday before the Reds began an attempt to even up their series against the Rockies.

Phillips has long been a fan favorite on the Reds, but his performance of recent has become a bit of an enigma with varying opinions on its contribution to the success of the team. He’s now 33 years old and no longer expected to repeat his 30 HR/30 SB season that he accomplished in 2007. He did crack the 100 RBI plateau for the first time in his career last year, but that was done in spite of a slugging percentage below .400. No doubt hitting behind the league’s top two on-base percentages in 2012 helped him in that achievement, but he still pushed them across the plate. Perhaps a case could be made that 100 RBI’s is kind of like hitting .300-the worst season surpassing one of those milestones is still a pretty good season.

This season his average, on-base and slugging percentages are all close to where he finished 2012. What has been disconcerting were a couple of vocal outbursts to the media last season. It would have been much easier to look the other way in year when he was challenging for a silver slugger award or gathering MVP votes, but now that he’s entering a phase of his career when production is declining there are concerns of distractions to the team. He’s still creating dazzling plays with the glove and boosting the team’s defensive efforts like he has done for years. However he negotiated an extra year on a contract extension before the 2012 season which now has the team owing him $39 million over the next three seasons which may be a burden for Cincinnati’s small market budget.

One thing for sure is that assuming he’s physically ready he is the Reds best option at second base right now and it looks like there won’t be much challenge to that over the next couple of years unless they pick up a middle infielder from outside of the organization. Minor league journeyman Negron and spring training invitee Santiago have done admirably filling in for injuries, but if the Reds are going to salvage their season they will to get back the services of Phillips and Joey Votto. Phillips is now on the field and Votto has resumed baseball activities from a quad injury that has sidelined him since July 5.

Hopefully what that means for Reds fans is that one is close to returning and the other is not far behind. Before the season there were concerns over Cincinnati’s bench depth and that is especially a problem now when said depth is regularly part of the starting lineup. It may be too late in the season to change the Reds fate, but in order for them to sneak into the postseason they would have to come into it with a head of steam and if the roster was finally healthy they would likely bring in considerable confidence on advancing. Fan is short for “fanatic” and hope springs eternal so one can’t blame Reds followers for reluctance to throw in the towel. Phillips is working to get back and help postpone them from reaching that point.


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