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06/18/11 6:30 PM ET

Bird's-eye view for Phillips' fine defense

CINCINNATI -- Brandon Phillips has been praised for his strong defense, but now the Reds second baseman is getting downright theatrical.

Phillips added yet another clip to his personal highlight reel in the fifth inning on Friday night, when he snagged a chopper up the middle and tossed it against his body from the edge of the center-field grass. Phillips' throw was strong enough to nab Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia at first.

Phillips said he couldn't see first base when he tracked down the ball, and he didn't know where his throw would wind up when he unleashed it.

"I just did one of those Magic Johnson hook shots and I just threw it to first hoping it can make it," said Phillips, a two-time Gold Glover. "I just tried to throw it and make a play, make something happen. Next thing you know, I looked up and it was right at him. I was very surprised; I didn't think that the ball was really going to get to him, and I didn't think the ball was going to be that accurate."

Phillips, who had fallen to the ground while making the throw, stayed sprawled out on the grass, still in disbelief, as the rest of the team jogged up. All he could do, he said, was laugh.

That is not to confuse the play for sheer luck, though. Phillips pointed out that he trains himself to pull off gems, and manager Dusty Baker credited Phillips as the best defensive second baseman he has ever seen.

"He does it sort of matter-of-factly, but he practices on it," Baker said. "We all got areas that we can be better and improve on, and this guy is working on it every day, just on everything."

While Phillips has left plenty of jaws dropped with his defense -- a certain back-handed, between-the-legs throw against Houston in May comes to mind -- Friday's play was even more special because he incorporated an animal into his act.

A trio of pigeons made themselves at home in the infield of Great American Ball Park on Friday, perhaps in part because Phillips fed them sunflower seeds in the first inning, calling them, "My friends: The Three Amigos."

When Arencibia hit the ball up the middle, one of the birds -- it is unclear whether it was Lucky Day, Dusty Bottoms or Ned Nederlander -- flew toward Phillips. Once Phillips gathered the ball, the pigeon veered across his body.

"I didn't know the pigeon was going to follow me the whole time," Phillips said. "I thought it was just pretty cool. And then once I saw the replays, it just seemed like somebody added a pigeon into the picture. It was pretty cool. It was like a movie scene or something."

Votto honored to receive Lou Marsh Award

CINCINNATI -- Joey Votto was honored before Saturday's game in an on-field ceremony where he was given the Lou Marsh Award as the 2010 Canadian Athlete of the Year.

Votto is just the third baseball player to win the award, joining Larry Walker in 1998 and Fergie Jenkins in '74. Marsh, the honor's namesake, was an athlete, referee and sports editor of the Toronto Sun. He died in 1936.

"It enormous," Votto said on Friday of the award's importance. "If you look at the list of guys that won that award, it's pretty select company. We have Olympic gold medalists, [humanitarian] Terry Fox, and then obviously a lot of hockey players; you know, Wayne Gretzky. To be on that list is a very big deal to me."

Votto first learned he would receive the award in December, when a panel of Canadian journalists voted for the reigning National League MVP. Before he could receive the trophy, however, Votto had to wait six months for Cincinnati to host Toronto, a franchise that was certainly influential to the Reds first baseman when he was a kid.

The Blue Jays won the World Series in 1992 and '93, the latter coming when Votto was 10 years old.

"The Toronto Blue Jays were the biggest thing in the city for a while, and everybody loved them," said Votto, who was raised in Etobicoke, a suburb of Toronto.

Worth noting

• Six of Scott Rolen's last seven hits have gone for extra bases, including Friday night's solo home run -- his first homer since April 7.

"The guy's had power his whole career; you don't get it at 35," manager Dusty Baker said. "The main thing is that he's healthier and he's still strong."

Rolen went on the disabled list in April with a left shoulder strain and he missed four games in June with a viral infection in his throat. Those setbacks played a part in the third baseman's early season power outage. He was slugging .377 through his first 38 games.

• Although a final decision has not been made, Baker said pitcher Homer Bailey (strained posterior capsule in right shoulder) will probably make another rehab appearance before returning to the Reds. Bailey gave up three earned in 4 1/3 innings for Triple-A Louisville on Thursday.

Tyler Jett is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.