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08/17/11 7:20 PM ET
Reds start Phillips at leadoff for first time in '11
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
WASHINGTON -- Following Tuesday night's 6-4 loss to the Nationals, Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips popped into manager Dusty Baker's office for a talk.
"We had one of the deepest convos ever! I just wanted him to know my thoughts of us being more successful," Phillips posted on Twitter with his skipper's permission.
The crux of the chat? Phillips volunteered to bat leadoff, a request that Baker obliged when making out Wednesday's lineup.
"I had a lot of things in my heart," Phillips said on Wednesday. "I just felt like that we have to have a spark at the top of the lineup. When he put me in the leadoff spot last year, I felt like I was the playmaker that kept us going. And we started winning when they put me in the leadoff spot. I could be myself. I could worry about being myself instead of worrying just about driving in runs hitting fourth. When I hit fourth, I am limited to a role and can't run or do a lot of things.
"I just talked to him man to man. He understood where I was coming from. I felt like it can't get worse. Let's try it and see what happens."
Phillips moved into the leadoff spot on June 25 of last year and spent 72 games there during the season as the Reds went 43-29 in those games while seemingly finding a groove toward a division title. He batted .251 with a .302 on-base percentage at the top of the lineup.
Regular leadoff man Drew Stubbs leads the Majors in strikeouts and was moved down to the sixth spot. Rookie left fielder Dave Sappelt, who batted second on Wednesday, came in batting .226 and scored just one run in his seven games this season as a leadoff hitter.
"Brandon is the one guy in our lineup that has the ability to bat all over the lineup," Baker said. "You don't find those guys very often. Preferably, you'd like Stubbs in the first spot, but he's struggling a little bit."
Phillips came in batting .283 with 11 home runs and 63 RBIs this season. He missed six starts last week with a sprained right ankle and bruised left elbow.
"I know my arm is still bothering me," Phillips said. "But if I hit at the top of the lineup, I could get more [at-bats] and get my timing back. I told him to give me one or two more games and I will be swinging the bat like I normally do."
The entire conversation wasn't just about lineups, Baker noted.
"The main thing he asked was I OK? They know I'm usually not in a real good mood after losses," he said.
Janish starts at short with Renteria out
WASHINGTON -- A strained left groin suffered during Tuesday's game left Reds shortstop Edgar Renteria unavailable and Paul Janish starting on Wednesday. And it also posed a potential issue for manager Dusty Baker.
Who plays shortstop if something happens to Janish?
"Oh. That's a real tough one. I don't know at this point," Baker said. "[Todd] Frazier has played some shortstop, but not very much. [Miguel] Cairo has played some, but not very much recently. It's a tough question. I hope I don't get that."
Frazier was drafted as a shortstop but has not played there since 2008 at the Class A level. Cairo has 55 career games at shortstop, but logged all of one inning there in 2010 and none this year. Second baseman Brandon Phillips, himself a former shortstop, was not viewed as an option to move over.
"You don't want everybody out of position," Baker said.
As for Renteria, he remains day to day. He was injured running to second base on a seventh-inning double in Tuesday's 6-4 loss to Washington.
"He's kind of in the same position he was at the end of the game yesterday," Baker said. "You just go with who we've got."
The 12 1/2-game deficit behind the first-place Brewers in the National League Central entering Wednesday was the Reds' largest of the season. It's also the largest since they finished the 2009 season 13 games back.