CHICAGO -- Reds manager Dusty Baker was essentially asked to look into a crystal ball that doesn't exist, but his answer about pitcher Mike Leake on Friday was crystal clear.

Baker sees Leake's immediate better days ahead coming as a reliever and not as a starter. The 23-year-old was moved to the bullpen earlier this week to make way for Johnny Cueto's return from the disabled list. Cueto will make his season debut on Sunday against the Cubs. Having Cueto and Homer Bailey back means there is no space for Leake among the starting five.

As for Leake, could he one day find his way back to the rotation?

"It's too far down the line, No. 1," Baker said. "I think he'll be a very good long man. He stays in shape. He comes in, he throws strikes. He's keeping the ball down to get double plays. I don't have to hit for him if he comes up like you do a lot of relievers, because he can hit. Therefore, he can extend that part of my bullpen out, unlike a lot of guys.

"In the second half [of last year] and this year, he's had a little trouble with the lineup about the third time around. To me, that equals, in theory, a perfect long man."

In six starts this season, Leake is 3-1 with a 5.77 ERA. On Monday during a 10-4 loss to the Astros, he gave up a season-high seven runs over a season-low 3 2/3 innings, surrendering seven hits. Almost all of the damage came in the fourth inning after he had seemingly been cruising.

Leake did not fare well as a reliever in two appearances after being lifted from the rotation last season when he neared his innings limit. He gave up eight earned runs and 11 hits over 2 2/3 innings. If the newly whole Reds rotation gets into a rhythm, Leake might see sporadic action as a long man. The club is currently opposed to sending him to Triple-A Louisville to get consistent work as a starter.

"We were going to start the season with him as the long man and my sixth starter -- don't send him out to the Minor Leagues yet," Baker said. "That's why we sent [Matt] Maloney down to get stretched out. The way my starters have been going, I've got him and [Sam] LeCure. I've got two long guys, which is what we need right now. Once they [in the rotation] start humming again, we'll deal with that when they get there. We've got to start humming first."

Phillips adds another stunner to his portfolio

CHICAGO -- Defensive mastery? Brandon Phillips provided some again.

The Reds' second baseman has become a highlights fixture, especially this week. On Tuesday, he made a barehanded scoop and between-the-legs throw to get Jason Bourgeois of the Astros. And during Friday's 5-4 win over the Cubs, Phillips had another dazzler. With runners on first and second in the third inning, Phillips made a diving stop on Darwin Barney's sharp one-hop grounder up the middle, then made a no-look flip behind his back from the ground for the force play at second.

"I had to do something different. I was going to do the roll over and flip," Phillips said. "But I couldn't do that when I saw how far I was away from the bag. So I said, 'Forget it, let me just go behind my back.' I think about things before I do them."

Phillips is a two-time National League Gold Glove winner, including last season. He seems on his way to another one this season at the current rate.

"He's been playing some second base," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "That's why he's a golden glove. He played outstanding defense today."

Gomes not sweating low batting average

CHICAGO -- Jonny Gomes is certainly aware that the hits have been sporadic this season. All the Reds' left fielder has to do, if he chooses, is look at his .191 average after his 1-for-4 performance in the Reds' 5-4 win on Friday. He was 7-for-53 (.132) over his last 16 games since April 17.

Gomes finished the day second on the team in home runs (six) and walks (22) and third in RBIs (17). He has a .350 on-base percentage.

"The way I look at it is if it's got a decimal point in front of the number, it means it's an average," Gomes said prior to the game on Friday. "And it's an average over 162 [games], not an average through the first month of the season, the second month or the All-Star break. I was taught a while ago to focus on the numbers that go up, not the numbers that go up and down.

"At the end of the day, regardless of how many hits you get or don't get, you want to try and put something in the basket -- whether it's a walk, a run scored -- just something positive. If it's not in the hit category, that's fine."

Gomes reached base three times on Thursday against the Astros, with a walk, an intentional walk and a double. He also scored a run.

"To be a good hitter, you also affect the guy in front of you and the guy behind you. Who knows how to judge that?" Gomes said. "I've seen some of the guys hitting around me doing pretty well."

Baker looking for opportunity to spell Votto

CHICAGO -- Reds first baseman Joey Votto has started all 32 games for the Reds, including Friday, and has reached base in each of them. He is two shy of Dave Collins' 1981 club record for consecutive games reaching base to start a season.

Votto has played almost every inning, as well, and manager Dusty Baker would like to get him a break. But Baker also hasn't noticed any drag or fatigue on Votto's part.

"He's going to need a day sooner or later," Baker said Friday. "I remember Hank Aaron used to tell us to shoot for 150 [games] and two days off a month, which are more mental days off than physical days off. There are two days a month that you're not doing anything other than occupying ink space on the lineup card."

Votto played 150 games last season and started 146. His career high is 151 games played in 2008, and he started 138 of those.

Cairo still nursing sore right knee

CHICAGO -- Part of the reason Reds manager Dusty Baker can't get first baseman Joey Votto a day off is that backup first baseman and utility infielder Miguel Cairo is still bothered by a sore right knee. Cairo remains day to day.

"I don't know if he'll be able to play this weekend or not, nine innings and run effectively," Baker said. "He's not bad enough to be on the [disabled list], he's getting better. I'm going to give him time."