PITTSBURGH -- No one was more pleased that Sunday marked bench coach Chris Speier's final day as acting manager than Speier himself. That's because it only meant one thing: that regular manager Dusty Baker was healthy enough to return.
Baker, who missed his 11th game on Sunday while recovering from a minor stroke and an irregular heartbeat, is set to return to the bench on Monday, when the Reds open their final three-game regular-season series at St. Louis.
"Dusty is doing well. He sends his best," Speier said. "I think everybody has to understand I'm following suit here. It hasn't been easy to take over something when the mainstay of this organization is going through what he went through. There's a definite cloud over it because we're worried about him. We're really, really happy he will be in St. Louis tonight."
Out of respect since he's been filling in, Speier has avoided working out of the manager's office. Meetings with the media at Great American Ball Park have been held outside of Baker's office. In Pittsburgh, they were in the visiting skipper's office, but Speier would not make use of the desk.
"He's our leader. I'm just the bench coach," Speier said.
Baker, 63, left the Reds on Sept. 19, hours before they were to play a game at Wrigley Field. He was initially admitted to a Chicago hospital to be treated for an irregular heartbeat but suffered a mini-stroke as he was being discharged. He returned to Cincinnati on Sept. 23.
Although Speier has been managing, Baker has either created or consulted on most of the lineups. He's also been working behind the scenes the past week for a few hours each day.
Speier didn't expect that Baker would have any limitations that would prevent him from taking on the full duties of manager.
"It'll be just like he never missed a beat. I'm looking forward to that," Speier said.
Pitcher Bronson Arroyo, who is starting on Monday vs. the Cardinals, was also pleased to know Baker would be healthy enough to return to work.
"It's always nice to have the captain of the ship around," Arroyo said. "Any way you cut it, if you're missing a 25th man on the team, it's much easier to not notice that than to miss your manager. He's the guy that brings a lot to the table. He's a head figure you want to be there to kind of represent the ballclub."
Phillips exits as precaution with tight left groin
PITTSBURGH -- Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips was lifted in the sixth inning Sunday during a 4-3 win over the Pirates. It was a precaution as Phillips felt tightness in his left groin while running the bases in the third inning.
"He really wanted to stay in," acting manager Chris Speier said. "After talking with the medical staff, we felt it best he get out. He'll be fine. I'm sure he'll be able to go tomorrow."
Phillips had hit a leadoff single in the third inning and slipped on the dirt while rounding second base on Wilson Valdez's single. It rained during much of the early innings -- play was delayed for four minutes with one out in the top of the first inning before the umpires decided to let the game continue -- and the grounds crew worked in the first inning to spread dry dirt on the basepaths.
"I was talking to the umpire while on the field, I said, 'You see how they put all of that dirt on the field by second base? Somebody is going to round second base and get hurt,'" Phillips said. "And it had to be me. It was awful around second base. "I understand everything [Speier] was saying, but I told him I was cool to play. He wanted to be safe, especially since the conditions on the field were real bad."
Ludwick feels good, but scratched due to wet field
PITTSBURGH -- Recovered from tightness in his left groin, Reds left fielder Ryan Ludwick was in the original starting lineup Sunday for the first time since Sept. 19.
But morning showers prompted Ludwick to be scratched as a precaution. Chris Heisey started in left field.
"I don't know how smart it would be to play on a super slick surface," Ludwick said.
Ludwick knocked a pinch-hit double in the eighth inning during the Reds' 2-1 loss vs. the Pirates on Saturday night.
"I came out of the box hot, and after I realized it was a double, I kind of slowed down just because I wanted to be careful," Ludwick said. "I did some drills [Sunday], woke up today feeling fine."
Ludwick, who has been taking batting practice for several days and also facing sliders dealt from a pitching machine, felt like he was seeing the ball well in the batter's box.
"I got a little anxious when I saw the first-pitch slider and that 1-0 count, I was sitting dead red fastball," Ludwick said. "He threw it high, but I was so geared up, I think, that I swung at it."
Ludwick was 2-for-2 in two days when he sent another pinch-hit double into left field in the ninth inning on Sunday. His pinch-runner, Denis Phipps scored the go-ahead run in a 4-3 win over the Bucs.
Todd Frazier made his first Major League appearance in right field Sunday, when he started in place of Jay Bruce. It was Frazier's fourth different position this season after he's already played third base, first base and left field. Lifetime vs. Pirates lefty starter Wandy Rodriguez, Bruce is 2-for-32 with 16 strikeouts.