HOUSTON -- Hall of Famer Joe Morgan may be the best second baseman to have played the game. And Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips is among the best currently in the game, having made his first National League All-Star team last season.
"He's already a great second baseman," said Morgan, the Reds' senior advisor to president of baseball operations and general manager Walt Jocketty. "He makes plays no other second baseman can make. He's a fabulous player. I don't know how good he can be, he's already there to me."
Phillips, who batted cleanup on Tuesday against the Astros, entered the game batting .311 with four home runs, 17 RBIs and 22 runs.
Twice in the previous three seasons, the 29-year-old Phillips has won a Gold Glove Award (2008, 2010), and twice in the previous four seasons, he won the Ernie Lombardi Award as the Reds' Most Valuable Player ('07, '09).
"We forget that a second baseman's job, a shortstop's job -- their first job is to play defense up the middle," said Morgan. "And he does a great job of that, and now he's being recognized as an All-Star because of having all the other stuff."
Janish, Rolen on the mend for Reds
HOUSTON -- For the fourth consecutive game, infielder Paul Janish was not in Tuesday's starting lineup because of a sprained right ankle, and third baseman Scott Rolen continues to recover from a strained left shoulder.
Rolen met the team in Houston on Monday and took part in batting practice, a session in which Reds manager Dusty Baker said Rolen looked pretty good.
"I was equally concerned about how he looked fielding and throwing, running the bases," said Baker. "You could tell he's been working out. He ran all practice. He knows how to get game ready."
Baker wasn't certain when Rolen would be ready for a return to Cincinnati's lineup.
"He'll kind of let you know," said Baker.
There's a chance Janish could play on Wednesday in the finale of the three-game series against the Astros. Janish is a Houston resident and played college ball at Rice.
"He's coming along rather quickly," said Baker. "The chance tomorrow would probably be at third [base], even though [shortstop] Edgar [Renteria] has played a lot after tonight. I'm more worried about [Janish] leaping over double plays, holding base runners, stuff like that.
"I would rather have him play tomorrow -- if he can play -- play at third, then see in St. Louis what happens."
Reds showcasing rotation they envisioned
HOUSTON -- The Reds' current starting rotation is what the team envisioned at the start of Spring Training, now that right-handers Homer Bailey and Johnny Cueto are healthy.
Reds starters were ranked 14th in the National League with an ERA of 4.83 entering Tuesday. But they're improving. Cincinnati starting pitchers had not allowed a run in their last 16 innings prior to Tuesday's game with the Astros. And after a 5.23 ERA in April, the starting pitchers have a 3.58 ERA in May.
"We have a different look," said Reds pitching coach Bryan Price.
Joining Bailey and Cueto in the rotation are right-handers Bronson Arroyo and Edinson Volquez, and left-hander Travis Wood, who pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings on Monday in Cincinnati's 6-1 win at Houston.
To start the season the Reds had right-handers Mike Leake and Sam LeCure in the rotation.
"In the big picture, we handled ourselves pretty well," said Price. "Right now we're what we envisioned in February."
The Reds lead the NL in home runs (41) and RBIs (175), but there's another aspect of the team that has impressed Price.
"The thing that stands out about our team is our defense," said Price. "We got a team that can score a lot of runs, it's got a rotation now. When healthy, we can be very good on a consistent basis, and the thing that shows up every day is the defense. And it makes a huge difference."
Reds pitchers take pride in their hitting
HOUSTON -- Like a lot of pitching staffs, there's some competition among Cincinnati pitchers when it comes to hitting. Travis Wood's three-run home run in Monday's 6-1 win over the Astros is a reminder of how good some of the Reds' pitchers are at swinging the bat.
"There's always that friendly competition, especially when it comes to batting practice," said Bronson Arroyo, who has five career home runs. "Game-wise, it's just so tough for us. Really, anything positive that comes out of a pitcher getting anything done at the plate is icing on the cake."
Right-hander Mike Leake batted .333 in his first season with the Reds last year, but he had no home runs.
"It's getting a little more fun around here," said Arroyo, who made his Major League debut as a pinch-hitter with Pittsburgh in 2000. "In years past, we hadn't had quite the amount of athletes we have now. But the one guy who can outhit us is Leake if we all had 100, 200 at-bats. But he's in the bullpen now, so we won't see him swing a lot."
A career .131 hitter, Arroyo doesn't consider himself a great hitter despite his five home runs.
"If they want to feed me fastballs at 92 [mph] in the middle of the plate, I feel I'll get my fair share of hits, but we're all at a disadvantage being at the plate," said Arroyo.
Wood's home run on Monday was the second of his two-year career. He was hitless in all 11 of his previous at-bats this season. But Wood, who batted .189 last season, believes he's a good hitter.
"I like to think so," said Wood. "The average right now doesn't say that, but I feel comfortable up there with the bat."
Richard Dean is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.