Timing good, so Reds rest Phillips
With off-day Thursday, second baseman sits for Astros finale
CINCINNATI -- As he prepared to rest for his first off-day of the season Wednesday, Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips' tone to reporters was lighthearted and completely respectful.Phillips, however, had a clear message. He has been reading and digesting media stories about his hitting issues this season and hoped the tenor of that content would change. "I love you guys. I have nothing but respect for all of you," Phillips said. "But ever since you've been writing about me not hitting, we haven't been winning." Last week, Phillips snapped an 0-for-22 hitless streak and spent two games hitting sixth instead of his usual cleanup spot. The Reds were 7-3 on a 10-game road trip, but they have struggled since returning home and have dropped back-to-back series vs. the Braves and Astros. "In the beginning when I wasn't doing anything, everybody was flowing and it was all about the team. It was all about winning," Phillips said. "Then the next thing you know, people start writing about, 'Phillips is not hitting. Edwin [Encarnacion] is not hitting.' Everybody started paying attention to me and Edwin and everybody lost focus about winning. I think everybody should start writing about the Reds winning instead of worrying about two players. But I love your articles. I read them all the time. "If I'm doing something bad, you can write about it. It's cool. But just make sure you don't write about it real big. We have a young team. Everybody reads that and starts worrying [and saying], 'Brandon, are you OK?' There is no point in people asking me if I'm OK. We're winning. I'm happy. It's all about winning. I am going to produce, regardless of the fact. I'm not going to say it will happen today or tomorrow. I'm going to hit. It's a matter of time before it happens." At first glance, the timing of Phillips' first day off of the season seemed odd. Showing recent indications he's poised to escape his season-long funk, Phillips went 2-for-4 with a double and a home run in Tuesday's 8-3 loss to the Astros. But with a scheduled off-day on Thursday, the chance to give Phillips a potential two-day break was too good to pass up. "It was already planned before anyway," Baker said. "A lot of times, probably 20 different times, I had a guy with a planned day off and then he has a good game and the next day doesn't work out and I've wasted the plan." Jerry Hairston Jr. started at second base in the series finale vs. Houston in place of Phillips, who along with Joey Votto, were the only two players remaining that had played every inning of every game. Although 4-for-12 over his past three games, Phillips entered Wednesday batting .191 with two home runs, seven RBIs and four steals in 20 games. Phillips appeared as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning of the Reds' 3-0 win and lined out to second base. Breaks are uncommon for Philips, who has played at least 140 games every season since joining the Reds in 2006. Baker also resists resting the 27-year-old because of his Gold Glove defense. "Of course you don't want to sit out," Phillips said. "Regardless if you're hitting or not hitting, I feel like I can do something in every game to help the team win -- whether it's with my bat or my glove. That's how I look at it. He's the boss and makes the decisions. The only thing I can do is just smile and go with the flow and hope the team can win." As for media attention, Phillips has advised his younger teammates to avoid reading stories or the story clips provided by the team. "Some guys read it, and it gets in their heads," Phillips said. "I laugh about it, because I got used to it. I struggled one year in 2003 with the Indians. It got all in my head. I was messed up. Now I just laugh it off, because I learned many things about it."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.