CINCINNATI -- Brandon Phillips, who was struck on the right hand by a pitch in Wednesday's game, was kept out of the starting lineup on Friday. X-rays taken on Thursday were negative.

Reds manager Dusty Baker, for strategic reasons, would not say if Phillips was available to pinch-hit in Friday's game.

"I'd rather not [say]," Baker said. "It's not broken, that's a good thing. As long as it's not broken, he could come back in a day or two."

Phillips was hit on the back of his right hand by a pitch from Giants reliever Santiago Casilla in the top of the fifth inning of Wednesday's 12-11 victory.

Valaika makes memorable first start

CINCINNATI -- With Brandon Phillips out of the lineup Friday, rookie Chris Valaika made his first career start for the Reds, smacking his first big league home run in Cincy's 7-1 victory over the Cubs.

"It's great to get that one out of the way," Valaika said. "It was a great experience tonight. You dream about it as a kid, hitting your first Major League home run. It's kind of tough hitting behind [Jay] Bruce, though, having that act to follow."

Valaika, who went 2-for-4 with a homer, a double and two runs scored, replaced Phillips at second base and batted second.

"I got fired up when I got to the ballpark and saw my name on the lineup card," Valaika said. "I come to the ballpark every day, and if my name's in the lineup, great. If not, I'll do whatever I can do to help the team win."

Right fielder Bruce, who batted leadoff for the first time since his rookie season, smacked three home runs for the first time in his career and finished with five RBIs.

Phillips has batted leadoff in 53 games this season.

"My approach is to take a quality at-bat wherever I'm hitting," said Bruce, who hit leadoff in 22 games in '08. "Hopefully it helps the team."

Bruce did not bat leadoff in 2009, but manager Dusty Baker felt he was the best option.

"He's had some success in the past in the leadoff spot," said Baker. "I thought he was the best guy for that spot today. I've had to mix and match with [Orlando] Cabrera and Brandon out."

Harang eyes return to rotation Tuesday

CINCINNATI -- Aaron Harang could return to the Reds' starting rotation on Tuesday.

Manager Dusty Baker said the club's preliminary plan is to have Harang start Tuesday night's game against the Brewers at Great American Ball Park.

Harang, the Reds' Opening Day starter each of the past five seasons, is 6-7 with a 5.02 ERA in 17 starts. He's been on the disabled list since July 6 with lower back spasms.

In two rehab starts with Triple-A Louisville, Harang went 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA, allowing 11 earned runs on 14 hits in 11 innings, with two walks and 10 strikeouts.

Despite the disappointing Minor League numbers, Harang says he feels fine physically.

"The ball's coming out well," Harang said. "I haven't had any issues with the back bothering me at all. I'm down there to build up my endurance and get my timing back."

Harang, who had not yet met with Baker on Friday when he spoke with reporters, said he'd be open to pitching out of the bullpen.

"I just want to get out there and feel like I'm helping out," Harang said. "The hardest part right now is ample amount of downtime. I want to participate. After awhile, you want to be out there and not be a cheerleader."

Reds poised for successful homestand

CINCINNATI -- The Reds, coming off a 6-3 West Coast road trip, maintained their four-game lead over St. Louis with a 7-1 victory over the Cubs on Friday. The Cards also won Friday, 4-2, vs. the Nats in Washington.

Despite being outscored 38-19 in losing two of three to the Giants at AT&T Park to wrap up the trip, manager Dusty Baker said he's pleased overall.

"It was satisfying," Baker said. "It was rough at the end there. We got beat up pretty good. But they all count. We picked up a game or two in the meantime."

Right fielder Jay Bruce says the Reds cannot relax for a moment, despite a four-game lead as they kicked off a six-game homestand against the Cubs and Brewers at Great American Ball Park.

"We know how good the Cardinals are," Bruce said. "No lead is safe. No one is laying down for us. We expect to win every day."

Worth noting

Reds manager Dusty Baker said he will miss seeing Lou Piniella in the Cubs dugout during this weekend's series. Piniella, who managed the Reds to a World Series title in 1990, announced his retirement Sunday, primarily to spend time with his ill mother. "It'll be weird not to see Lou and wave across the field," Baker said. "Sometimes we lose sight of what's important in this game. It's family first." ... The first 15,000 fans attending Monday night's game against the Brewers will receive an 8x10 commemorative print of the Sports Illustrated cover featuring Reds first baseman Joey Votto. Twenty fans will receive a print signed by Joey. Gates to Great American Ball Park open at 5:40 p.m. CT.